Home from Afghanistan
January 14, 2012
Ponce, PR- Approximately 100 soldiers assigned to the 475th Eng. Co., 1st Mission Support Command, US Army Reserve-Puerto Rico, came home to an emotive and happy reception, 14 Jan., after a yearlong mobilization in Afghanistan.
"The 475th Eng. Co. had one of the toughest missions that any unit of this command has faced in a long time," said Brig. Gen. Fernando Fernández, commander of the US Army Reserve Forces in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean.
As a combat heavy engineer company, the 475th was in charge of improving the infrastructure in different areas of Afghanistan, to include places controlled by the Taliban forces.
"We built many miles of roadways to improve the transportation around the country, allowing the security forces to have access to previously inaccessible areas. We were basically going to the Taliban's backyard," said 1st Lt. Mike Martinez, acting commander of the engineer unit.
Due to the nature of their mission, approximately 70 percent of the unit's forces were awarded the Combat Action Badge, in recognition for their performance under enemy fire.
In addition, at least three soldiers earned a Purple Heart decoration, for being wounded in the line of duty, as a result of enemy fire.
Staff Sgt. Luis Pérez-Serrano was one of the recipients of the Purple Hearts.
"It was a difficult year, but we were able to accomplish the mission successfully," said Pérez Serrano.
The performance of the 475th validates the 1st MSC pre-deployment training program and the inherent strengths of the troops and families assigned to the largest US Army Reserve Command in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean.
"These mobilizations teach you the value of things that you may not have appreciated before," said Staff Sgt. Marilyn Bernier, one of the few female soldiers in the unit and who supervised construction projects during the deployment.
"A big thank you to my family for their unwavering support. Without them, I would never have gotten here," said Bernier.
Staff Sgt. Octavio Pérez-Colón, a Construction Equipment Operator with the 475th, was also happy for their return to the island.
"I am glad to finally be back home. Thanks to God all the members of the unit came back safely. This was a very difficult year with many, many missions and moments of stress, but we were able to do our job," said Pérez-Colón.
Perez-Colón's wife, Ms. Wanda Mayoral, also expressed her relieve.
"I cried a lot when I first saw my husband today. I had many mixed emotions. But this is over and he is finally here. We have a party in our neighborhood to receive him," said Mayoral who was also the unit's Family Readiness Group leader during the deployment.
"I must thank all the families for their support during this past year," added Mayoral.
The members of the 475th Eng. Co. were the first Puerto Rico Reservists to arrive home in 2012.
The US Army Reserve-Puerto Rico has mobilized approximately 5,000 troops in direct support to the War against Terrorism, since the year 2001.