News: There's no place like home for the holidays
Story by Sgt. Lauren Twigg
PHOENIX - More than 95 soldiers from the 819th Engineer Company of the Arizona Army National Guard, returned home today after completing a nine-month deployment to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
As the soldiers filed in to the room at the Allen Readiness Center, more than 150 families and friends cheered loudly as they welcomed their soldiers home. Not only were the soldiers home after a long deployment, they were home for Christmas.
Although the overseas portion lasted nine months, preparing for it made the whole duration nearly a year long.
“We reported for duty on December 26th, 2012, for training in Florence, Arizona for pre-deployment training,” said Capt. Jared Wagoner, commander, 819th Eng. Company. “Immediately following the training, we moved to Fort Bliss, Texas, on January 25th, 2013, for job-specific training and deployment.”
And just a few short months later, the soldiers boarded a plane for Afghanistan for the first deployment in their unit’s history.
This deployment was no leisure stroll in the park, as the perils and challenges the unit faced while in Afghanistan was coupled with the fact that the safe travel of others depended on their knowledge and skills.
“As a part of our operations, we provided route clearance for the Zabul province, where we searched for and reduced improvised explosive devices and obstacles ensuring that U.S. and Coalition forces could freely travel across Regional Command-South,” Wagoner said.
In addition, the engineers partnered with the 2-205th Afghan National Army Route Clearance Company. During this partnership, the unit trained the Afghan soldiers in engineer tactics and skills as well as taking on multiple combat operations with them.
In these operations, the Bellemont-based unit was engaged by enemies during two operations, which resulted in 60 Combat Action Badges and seven Purple Hearts.