News: Diverse group of engineers deploy to Afghanistan
Story by Tulara McCauley
FORT BLISS, Texas – Soldiers of the 1191st Engineer Company, 216th Engineer Battalion, 16th Engineer Brigade, a National Guard unit from Portsmouth, Ohio, deployed to Afghanistan to assist with retrograde operations for the drawdown, here, July 31.
The 1191st is a horizontal engineering company, which operates heavy construction equipment to complete construction projects, including the construction of roads and airfields, emplacing culverts, hauling construction materials and providing force protection. During this deployment, the unit will conduct base and forward operating base (FOB) closures and transfer these locations to the Afghan nationals.
Spc. Christopher Webb, who serves as the unit public affairs representative, transferred from 211th Maintenance Unit out of Newark, Ohio, to deploy with the 1191st. Webb remarked on the benefits of bringing together a variety of Soldiers to accomplish a mission.
“Soldiers with different lifestyles and cultures bring new perspectives to the projects,” said Webb. “The entire unit has a lot of synergy. I really enjoy working with these Soldiers.”
Some of the Soldiers stood out from the rest.
Spc. Gideon Bayuo, originally from Ghana, joined the Ohio National Guard in 2011.
Webb is a heavy equipment operator with the Ohio National Guard, but he works a very different occupation in his civilian career. Bayuo has a passion to help mentally challenged children, so he works in a treatment facility for sexually abused and abusive children.
“I want to be a positive image for troubled children,” Bayou said.
Bayou supervises and mentors the children, who live at the boarding school. He teaches them to maintain distance from each other and helps them to develop discipline. Bayou uses lessons from his upbringing to influence the children.
“I was raised to respect authority,” said Bayou. “I learned from watching my parents. My dad was never abusive, and I learned it is wrong to hit a woman, so I pass that knowledge on to the children.”
The 1191st also has a father and his daughter, who will deploy together.
Pfc. Kayla Townsend, deployed with her father, Sgt. 1st Class Joe Schilling. Townsend was happy to have her father along for her first deployment.
“I do feel safer and excited to have the opportunity to spend time with him,” said Townsend. “He’s a great dad, and he takes care of his Soldiers. I love him and I’m glad he’s here with me, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.”
Schilling, readiness noncommissioned officer for the 1191st, is also pleased to be in the same company with his daughter. He was quick to point out that he never recruited Townsend into the Guard, but when she asked about joining, he told her the truth about the commitment needed to sustain the rigors of the military. Schilling also said his wife has comfort knowing that he will be watching over their daughter.
“I’ll keep (Townsend) as near as I can, but she is in another platoon, so she will have to do her job,” Schilling said. “She always shows up because that is what is expected of her. She will always do the right thing.”
In addition to watching over his daughter, Schilling felt a responsibility for the Soldiers in his unit.
“There are 157 Soldiers in this unit, and I think of 156 of them as my children,” said Schilling.
Spending time at McGregor Range, New Mexico, gave the 1191st a chance to get to know one another and to form strong bonds within the unit.
“We have a solid team and we are ready to get out there and see what these Soldiers can do,” stated Schilling.
The stay at McGregor was enhanced by the support of the Directorate of Mobilization and Deployment.
“DoMaD has been very responsive to the requests from the unit,” said Schilling. “Once we asked a question, we got an answer instead of being passed on to another person.
The 1191st waited six years to get the green light to deploy.
Commander Capt. Evan Washburn explained that the 1191st has not deployed since 2008 when Hurricane Gustav hit Louisiana. The unit was called up to clear rubble and repair damage at a school district.
“We waited a long time to get this assignment, and we’re ready to go,” Washburn said.