FORT HOOD, Texas -After facing the grueling elements that northeastern Africa had to offer, the Soldiers of the 319th Expeditionary Signal Battalion, 505th Signal Brigade, 335th Signal Command (Theater), were finally able to rest under air conditioning vents during their welcome home ceremony at the North Fort Hood Chapel, Fort Hood, Texas, on March 24, 2018.
The California-based U.S. Army Reserve unit supported U.S. Army Africa Command as part of a 12 months deployment to Djibouti. Specifically, carrying out missions to install wireless communication terminals and help train U.S. Allies across the Horn of Africa on new techniques in cyber warfare and security.
Most of the battalion was certified in the most cutting edge use of such techniques as well as achieving a few foreign accolades such as the German Action Proficiency Badge and the French Commando Course Badge.
Brig. Gen. Matthew Easley, deputy commanding general sustainment of the 335th Signal Command (Theatre), noted how these new skills contributed to the command's overall mission.
"A lot of what you may see in the news is the new ways we're fighting our wars," Easley said. "We don't want to just go fight the wars on our own, a lot of what this team did was conduct training with host nations across the Horn of Africa on how to use these new communication systems."
The signal battalion was honored with a "welcome home" ceremony directly after a long flight from Africa to The United States. Easley and Col. Jean Henderson, commander of the 505th Theatre Tactical Signal Brigade, welcomed 35 of their Soldiers home with encouraging words and open arms. Henderson highlighted the success of the mission and thanked the Soldiers for their efforts.
"For probably the first time in history we are doing it right, we're teaching other nations to help themselves, training them to fish so to speak," Henderson said. "Not only did you train yourselves, but you extended that olive branch to other services in Allied nations so that they could continue to educate themselves and spread that knowledge."
Each officer's speech emphasized the importance of the battalion's mission and thanked each Soldier for stepping away from their civilian lives to serve not only their country, but its Allies half a world away.
At the close of the ceremony, each Soldier received an encased American flag as a memento of the hard work they put forward and the relationships they helped cultivate for their nation.
Spc. Matthew Jousselin, a multichannel transmission systems operator-maintainer with Company B, 319 ESB and social worker in the civilian world, spoke on how this deployment helped and will continue to help soldiers like him into the future.
"It's truly an honor to see the fruits of our labor," Jousselin said. "We didn't raise our hands to serve once a month, we made a commitment to our country. Over the last year we've all gotten very close and have a brand new skill set that many of us can bring back into our civilian lives. Everyone is ready."
As these soldiers turn their eyes to the horizon they look forward to returning home with new skills and deeper bonds.