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MAC units redeploy Amabilia Payen

Lt. Col. John Klinkam (far left), commander of the 578th Engineer Battalion, and Col. Peter Kim, chief of staff for the 40th Infantry Division, shake the hands of Soldiers assigned to the 216th Engineer Company and 849th Engineer Company to welcome them home from Afghanistan, May 24, at the Silas L. Copeland Departure/Arrival Air Control Group. (Photo by Amabilia Payen, DoMaD Public Affairs)

FORT BLISS, Texas -- Two Mobility Augmentation Companies, the 216th Engineer Company, California National Guard, and the 849th Eng. Company, Minnesota National Guard, redeployed to U.S. soil, May 24, at the Silas L. Copeland Departure/Arrival Air Control Group after completing one of the most dangerous missions in Afghanistan; route clearance.

The 216th Eng. Co., based out of Long Beach, California, had multiple successes for identifying and neutralizing Improvised Explosive Devices. The 849th Eng. Co., based out of Litchfield, Minnesota, assisted Afghani soldiers in clearing a Taliban-controlled area in order to place a polling booth, resulting in a secure and successful presidential election for 2014. Both units suffered some casualties, but none were killed in action. Both units will now go through the demobilization process through the Directorate of Mobilization and Deployment and return to their home states respectively once completed.

Lt. Col. John Klinkam, commander of the 578th Eng. Battalion from Manhattan Beach, California, expressed his pride in the 216th Eng. Co.

“What I am particularly proud of is the leadership, starting with the commander, all the way down to the (noncommissioned officer) Corps and the soldiers,” said Klinkam. “Not only did they take care of the mission, they took care of one another. They have just done an unparallel successful job in Afghanistan.”

Klinkam credits some of the success of the 216th to the support given by the Family Readiness Group, Gold Star Dads organization, and the Palos Verdes Peninsula Republican Women Federation. These organizations supported the 216th Eng. Co. by sending care packages.

“There’s without a doubt that the training here at Fort Bliss helped out,” said Capt. Robert Bejarano, commander of the 216th. “I want to thank the Soldiers for doing a good job and paying particular attention to a lot of the things we were preaching early on in the deployment, most specifically with discipline and initiative and sticking to our guns as engineers.”
Capt. Matt Jukkala, commander of the 849th Eng. Co. felt “nice” to be back in the states. His Soldiers are still anxious to return to their families.

“It was a good deployment, we did have some guys get hurt, but they are doing pretty well, considering,” said Jukkala. “(This deployment) really brought a lot of experience and expertise into the company. We are a lot stronger now coming back. We had an important mission and we accomplished a lot.”

Jukkala expressed deployment success was majorly credited to his company’s leadership. He felt they did everything that contributed to earning an excellent reputation with their counterparts in theater.

“We received a lot of praise, out of surprise, for how well we performed as a National Guard unit,” said Jukkala. “Thanks to my guys for doing such an excellent job.”

Jukkala also felt grateful for the care and support DoMaD provided to his unit, as they prepared for the trip back to America.

“Col. (John) Dorney and his team, were great, getting us where we needed to,” said Jakkala. “They worked with us since we were in Afghanistan coming back here, getting this process to be as seamless as possible.”

It was a first time deployment for Pfc.’s Patrick Ruegemer and Steven Feister. Ruegemer, 849th Eng. Co., learned a lot about how guys stick together under the combat conditions they were in and Feister, 216th Eng. Co., will never take running water and electricity for granted again.

“I really didn’t know anyone well in the unit, but now I got some of the best friends I ever had,” said Ruegemer. Ruegemer plans to complete his college degree at Central Lake College in Brainerd, Minnesota.

“I’d like to say to my family thank you for their support,” said Feister, who will return to his civilian job in Lancaster, California as a solar installer for Vergneo Construction.


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This work, MAC units redeploy, by Amabilia Payen, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.

Date Taken:05.24.2014

Date Posted:06.09.2014 12:31

Location:FORT BLISS, TX, USGlobe

Hometown:BRAINERD, MN, US

Hometown:LANCASTER, CA, US

Hometown:LITCHFIELD, MN, US

Hometown:LONG BEACH, CA, US

Hometown:MANHATTAN BEACH, CA, US

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