News: Clearance Company returns home
Story by Adriana Salas
Soldiers from the 573rd Clearance Company returned home to a gymnasium packed with excited screams from anxious friends and family members this morning. The company, which is made up of 126 soldiers, returned from a nine month deployment to Afghanistan on a route clearance mission.
Friends and family members arrived from all over the world to greet their soldiers as early as Friday. The soldiers were scheduled to return on Saturday, April 6, but due to unforeseen circumstances, had to change their arrival to early this morning. The delay left several anxious loved ones to wait almost two additional days for their soldier.
“He always tells me I’m shy and I pull back when he gives me affection, but this time I won’t,” said Vanessa Sanders, mother of 573rd Clearance Company soldier Spc. Gabriel Sanders. “I’m going to try not to cry and hug him and squeeze him.”
Sanders, like many family members, traveled a great distance from Murietta, Calif., to see her son for the first time in a little less than a year. This is her son’s second deployment with the 573rd Clearance Company which is the total number of deployments the company has had since their arrival at WSMR. The patriotism could be felt around the room when the recording of "The Star-Spangled Banner” malfunctioned during the ceremony and friends and family began to sing the song with a strong emphasis when they reached the lyrics, “the Land of the free.”
The 573rd Clearance Company is one of five that is attached to the 2nd Engineer Battalion. Currently, two additional companies are deployed overseas and are scheduled to return later this year. 2nd Engineer Battalion Commander, Lt. Col. Andre Balyoz spoke at the soldier’s ceremony to briefly thank them for a job well done and mission complete. Balyoz said the company was able to find 60 improvised explosive devices and had an 85 percent clearance success rate when the normal average is 65 percent.
“Because of their hard work, countless American soldiers, Soldiers of other nations, and local Afghan civilians were able to travel safely,” Balyoz said.
White Sands Missile Range Commander, Brig. Gen. Gwen Bingham also spoke at the ceremony to greet the Soldiers and thank them for their service. Bingham reminded the audience and Soldiers that there was one Soldier who was not physically present but who she knew was present in sprit. Sgt. Tristan Wade, of the 573rd Clearance Company, died March 22 when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device. Wade left behind a wife and a daughter.
“We vow to never forget his service, his sacrifice, and his family,” Bingham said.
“We are mighty, mighty glad that each and every one of you are back home. Our nation owes you a debt of gratitude” she added.
The soldiers and family members will receive about a month of leave to spend with their friends and loved ones before returning to work.