By 1st Lt. John Maham, 516th Signal Brigade, 311th Signal Command (Theater)September 11, 2013
HELEMANO MILITARY RESERVATION -- Forty-two members of the final group of Alpha Company, 307th Expeditionary Signal Battalion Soldiers returned home, here, on Sept. 5 one month after their redeployment began.
The redeployment ceremony was a culmination of a steadily rising current of cheerfulness among 307th Soldiers and family members, ignited after the first group arrived on Aug. 6.
Co. A Soldiers supported multiple regional commands in Afghanistan, under the command of the 101st Expeditionary Signal Battalion out of Yonkers, New York, over their nine-month deployment.
Interestingly, 307th ESB supported the same mission, in the same building, during Operation Enduring Freedom 2010-11. Cpt. Robert Bergdorf, the Co. A commander, was a first lieutenant during his first deployment with the 307th, serving as a network operations officer.
"It was an honor and a privilege to fall back into the mission and provide support," Bergdorf said. "I was proud that my Soldiers continued the mission this time."
307th ESB provided substantial variations in mission support throughout their deployment. A few Soldiers assisted in running help desks and hub nodes at the Regional Commands. Many directly supported the Warfigher at the infantry brigade level, while others supported security force assistance teams.
Soldiers assigned to SFAT teams assisted with providing various types of training for Afghan National Army Soldiers, all the while watching and guiding them with the intent of maturing the Afghan Soldiers as a unit for their eventual service.
Prior to Deployment, Co. A had participated in sling load training with the assistance of Hawaii Army National Guard pilots and their Chinook helicopters, at Wheeler Army Airfield. This training was hands-on, and intended to prepare them for potential, real-world mission requirements. Not long after arriving in Afghanistan, Co. A. executed an impressive 24 sling load missions. They used the valuable sling load knowledge that they acquired in Hawaii to move their equipment to 21 points of presence outside of Bagram Air Base.
A few of the Soldiers were assigned to FOBS that were occupied by foreign militaries. Satellite Communication Operator Spc. Jocelyn McLean was assigned to a FOB controlled by New Zealand and Malaysian forces in the Bamian Province.
"The new Zealand Soldiers, or Kiwis, were a fun group of people that made my time at the FOB unforgettable and enjoyable. They had culture nights and did the Maori Haka Dance for all of us. The Malaysians were equally memorable with their Mui Thai dancing" McLean happily recounted. "I'm much more accepting of different cultures now, and seeing so many new things was eye-opening.
Two other Satellite Communication Operators, Spc. Stephen French and Spc. Kyle Sharp, were assigned to a remote Polish FOB, over 9,000 ft above sea level, and on top of a mountain. During their three and a half month stay, the Soldiers and their Polish counterparts shared many aspects of their respective cultures.
"We exchanged a lot of music, learned about weapons systems and even fired the weapons with them" explained Sharp. "There were a lot of Polish Soldiers that spoke English really well, and we had fun playing soccer and videogames with them."
"It was a lot easier to work with other nations' militaries and get along with them during the process than I would have imagined. Although it seems like they only eat pork, and rub mayonnaise onto themselves before bathing in the sun, they were a really great group of Soldiers" said equally optimistic and culturally traumatized French.
Aside from their signal missions, A Co. accomplished a lot during their nine months downrange. 28 Co A. Soldiers reenlisted, and one Soldier was named 160th BDE NCO of the quarter. 26 completed Signal University courses and received many certifications. They also volunteered hundreds of hours at the Combat Stress Clinic, Operation Care, Navy Mental Health Team and the BAF USO.
The Dark Knights used their time in Afghanistan wisely, and provided outstanding support to their customers. Many left with more than tougher dispositions and broadened skill sets.
"Deployment had its ups and downs, but altogether was a really good experience" said Spc. McLean. "we all came home, and that's the biggest thing".