News: Greater Green Bay welcomes 432nd home
Story by Staff Sgt. Amanda Smolinski
GREEN BAY, Wis. – Their job was to improve stability in Afghanistan and increase the government’s capacity to govern.
“Today was very humbling, and marks the first step towards getting back to a normal Army Reserve drill life,” said Staff Sgt. Corey Evenson, a member of the 432nd Civil Affairs Battalion, after seeing other deployed unit members for the first time since pre-deployment training at Camp Atterbury, Ind., nearly a year ago.
More than 100 soldiers were recognized by congressmen, community and family members, at a welcome home warrior-citizen ceremony held at the Kress Center in Green Bay, Wis., June 9, 2012. The unit returned in March from a nine-month deployment to Afghanistan in support of 11 provincial reconstruction teams supporting 23 brigade combat teams and foreign militaries such as the Romanian, Polish and French armies.
“What a relief that it is over, I’m so glad he is home,” said Noelle Evenson. After eight years of marriage and three deployments, not one deployment is easier than the other, she said.
More than half of the soldiers standing in formation raised their hands when 308th Civil Affairs Brigade commander, Col. Oliver Lattimore, asked them who had deployed more than twice.
Looking toward the audience, Lattimore thanked the families.
“Without your support, the soldiers couldn’t do what we do as an organization, you are as valuable as any member of this team in uniform,” he said.
Members of the Wisconsin state legislature presented the unit with a plaque commemorating its service and mission in Afghanistan.
Reed Ribble, representative of Wisconsin’s 8th Congressional District, said that families know sacrifice and it is a burden that is not taken lightly. Ribble thanked three groups of people at the ceremony to include the families, soldiers, and the family of wounded veteran Sgt. Adam Alexander. The Alexander family received a roaring applause that ended with a standing ovation. Alexander has undergone major surgeries and vigorous rehabilitation at a center in Minnesota after being shot in the head by enemy fire last November.
“The injuries and kinetics did wear on the team,” said Sgt. Maj. Thomas Walsh, the senior non-commissioned officer on the Khost Provincial Reconstruction Team. “But I always told them, you cannot control things like a grenade coming over a wall, you can only react at that point.”
The U.S.-led PRTs are designed to strengthen local governments to allow them the power to deliver security and public services to their communities. When the local government is capable of maintaining stability and is able to govern, the PRT leaves the area so that the government can stand on its own.
Evenson said that his whole team came back with combat action badges and endured many base attacks, but what he remembers is the footprint his team left in the Zabul province after seeing the harvest of the many seeds planted.
“It was rewarding to train our job to the Afghan National Army so they can take over when we leave,” said Evenson. “We started to see this transition before we left. They also began realizing how to use their own funding versus using ours.”
Now that the unit has returned, Walsh says they will be utilizing the experienced soldiers to train new soldiers the unit gained back home over the year.
“We don’t want one strong company, we want all of the companies to have the same strengths,” said Walsh. Walsh will now serve as the senior operations non-commissioned officer.
“We want to take our first honeymoon vacation,” said Noelle.
Summer is already packed with camping trips, and Evenson says it just feels good to be back.
The welcome home warrior-citizen ceremony was developed by the chief of the Army Reserve to ensure that every soldier and family was recognized for their deployment service and properly welcomed home in front of both fellow soldiers and the community.