48th IBCT commander returns from Afghanistan
Colonel Lee Durham, 48th IBCT (Georgia National Guard) commander, steps onto the tarmac at Hunter Army Air Field and shakes hands with Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, April 7.

<b>HUNTER ARMY AIRFIELD, Ga. </b>- Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue joined Maj. Gen. Terry Nesbitt, Georgia's Adjutant General, and other senior Guard and state leaders gathered outside Truscott Air Terminal at Hunter Army Airfield to welcoming home Col. Lee Durham, 48th Infantry Brigade Combat Team commander from Afghanistan, April, 7.

Also receiving the governor's personal greeting were Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Hurndon, the 48th's top enlisted leader, and more than 250 other citizen-Soldiers.

"Governor Perdue is the most involved commander-in-chief I've ever known in my 40 years of service," Maj. Gen. Nesbitt said. "He's followed our troops stateside as they've trained for deployment, and he's taken every opportunity to visit our folks in Afghanistan and Iraq.

"I know our Soldiers, as I do, really appreciate him taking time to be here to shake their hands and thank them for a job well done," he added.

Among the units to return this time were the 48th's Headquarters Company and Company C of the 48th Brigade Special Troops Battalion, both home stationed in Macon; Forsyth's 148th Brigade Support Battalion - to include its commander, Lt. Col. Perry Carter- and the 148th's Company B out of Jackson.

All had a hand in the IBCT's mission of helping bring the Afghan army and Afghan National Security Force to the point where they head up their country's fight against the Taliban.

Standing at the bottom of the passenger stairway, Perdue never missed a hand as the Guardsmen left the aircraft that brought them here from Bagram Air Base near Charikar in Parwan province.

"I couldn't let the moment pass without being here to welcome home one of the last contingents of our Citizen-Soldiers to leave Afghanistan," Perdue said. "Speaking for all of Georgia, we're glad to have them safely back. They went away to do a job, and they did it. They made us all proud."

Staff Sergeant Jonas March and his wife, Spc. Nicole Aitkens, of Statesboro, agreed they expected someone to meet them, but never the governor.

"I can't tell you how proud I felt seeing Gov. Perdue standing there," said Staff Sgt. March, the noncommissioned officer-in-charge of supply for Macon's Headquarters Company, 48th IBCT. "It's really an honor to have shaken his hand, and have his thanks."

"Same goes for me," said Spc. Aitkens, an electronic warfare technician with Macon's Company C, 48th Brigade Special Troops Battalion. "I was a bit overwhelmed standing there, him shaking my hand. It's something I'll remember for a long, long time."

Inside the air terminal, Perdue again thanked Col. Durham, Command Sgt. Maj. Hurndon and the Guardsmen who formed up behind them, for the job they'd done.

"They went there [Afghanistan] with a job to do, and they did it great success," Perdue said before leaving the terminal. "These are ordinary citizens who put on the uniform and put their lives on hold to serve their state and their nation... and they continue to do it with great distinction.

"I couldn't be prouder of them," he concluded. "And while we continue to grieve for the eight lost in combat, the wounded and their families, we're glad to have those who've come home safely back on Georgia soil."

As for Maj. Gen. Nesbitt, his only words to the formation were to the brigade commander.
"Colonel Durham, take charge of your troops and get them back to their Families," he said with a wide smile.

Before putting his Soldiers aboard the buses that would take them to Fort Stewart's Cottrell Parade Field and the loved ones and friends waiting to greet them there, Col. Durham cited the fact that at least 20 brigade members remain in Afghanistan. That rear detachment, he said, is "cleaning up," after the brigade.

The 48th was signed for more than six and a half million dollars in property during its deployment, Col. Durham explained. With that property spread all over Afghanistan, and much of it now handed over to other units, it takes time to make sure everything remains properly documented and accounted for.

The rear detachment, he said, has finished about 98 percent of that work.

"Nearly all of our personnel actions are also complete, but there's always those 'onesies and twosies' that have to be completed," Col. Durham said. "My S-1 [personnel officer], Maj. Thomas Meeks, is in Bahrain and scheduled to brief the Army G-1 on Soldier issues that have come out of this deployment, and it's a opportunity for us to highlight the great job our Soldiers have done and the things we've learned."

The 20 left to finish the brigade's work, he said, will be coming home in the next six to seven days. Command Sergeant Major Hurndon added that no one from the 48th "remains operational." No one, he emphasized, is left on the battlefield, engaged in combat.

Page last updated Thu April 15th, 2010 at 16:09