News: 200 New York Army National Guard soldiers return to United States from Kuwait
Story by Amanda Glenn
CAMP SHELBY, MISSISSIPPI - More than 200 members of the New York Army National Guard's 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team have arrived back in the United States after deployment in Kuwait .
The soldiers, who are based at armories in Buffalo, Syracuse and Geneseo will go through out-processing at Camp Shelby before returning home to New York. The soldiers were mobilized in January and trained at Camp Shelby before deploying to Kuwait in April.
The soldiers, who returned to the United States on Tuesday and Wednesday, are the first of 1,300 New York Army National Guard soldiers of the 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team who will be returning from a Middle East deployment throughout December. They included members of the 27th Special Troops Battalion and Company A, 2nd Battalion 108th Infantry.
The soldiers could begin returning home to New York late next week.
The soldiers performed logistics, administrative and security missions while deployed.
The 27th Brigade mobilized in January 2012 at Camp Shelby. The unit deployed in support of more than 25 different missions and locations throughout the Middle East.
Most of the brigade's 2nd Battalion 108th Infantry Battalion, which served in Afghanistan, returned home in October.
The brigade's commander, Col. Geoffrey Slack, is urging his soldiers to be patient as they go through the demobilization process.
"Though everyone wants to go home, I think someone must beg each and every family to slow down and take full advantage of the demobilization process. ... Let that person be me," Slack emphasized.
With the 27th Brigade redeploying around the Christmas and New Year's holidays, Slack stressed that families and soldiers both need to understand that the demobilization process will not be shortened to get soldiers home more quickly.
"Take the time to demobilize, attend to every detail, ask every question, research every resource and save everything," Slack said, speaking directly to his soldiers.
More than 2,500 soldiers assigned to the brigade will redeploy and demobilized through Camp Shelby Joint Forces Training Center, Miss.
Staff there will address and resolve any medical, behavioral health, administrative and financial issues soldiers have before they head home.
The 27th Brigade deployed with Army National Guard soldiers from Florida, Alabama, Illinois, Wisconsin, California, Kansas, Michigan and South Carolina, as well as from New York.
"This is an important effort, and we are committed to taking care of every soldier as they transition back home," explained Maj. Gen. Kevin Wendel, First Army Division East Commander.
Soldiers who are expected to be at Camp Shelby over the Christmas holiday will be given four-day passes during that period. They can travel home at their own expense during that period, said Amanda Glenn, First Army Division East Public Affairs Officer.
The installation will continue to conduct out-processing procedures throughout the holiday period, closing only for Christmas Day.
First Army has the responsibility of overseeing the demobilization process for all redeploying Reserve Component soldiers. Division East leaders worked hand-in-hand with 27th Brigade leaders to ensure a smooth, seamless demobilization process.
First Army Division East tailors the demobilization process for each unit based on feedback from the deployed troops leaders. The First Army team began engaging the 27th Brigade leaders several months prior to their return, ensuring everyone understood requirements and resourcing specific issues and needs.
"While soldiers are anxious to return home as quickly as possible, it is absolutely essential they fully understand their benefits, get dedicated access to health care if they need it, and are aware of the employment and education opportunities beyond serving their nation overseas," said Wendel. "They have done a tremendous job downrange; they deserve every opportunity to receive the benefits they have so honorably earned."
"Demobilization is either the last act of mobilization or the first act of reset. I think it is equal parts of both efforts," Slack said. "If we fail in reset, we will make the rebuilding of our unit take longer and deny our state and our country the availability of this crucial Army asset."
Soldiers do not leave Camp Shelby until their needs have been satisfactorily addressed and validated explained Col. Dale Kuehl, commander of the 177th Armored Brigade, which runs the demobilization process.
In addition to individual-focused medical, dental and behavioral health support, soldiers receive information and resources on benefits, programs, and access to care to assist them as they transition back home, including TRICARE (the military health care program), Veteran's Health Administration information and assistance, and employment information and resources. Soldiers who wish to apply for benefits and jobs can do so with assistance from representatives on-site.
"We know soldiers want to depart the demob site as quickly as possible. However, they should understand that it's important the medical team here, working with them and their chain of command, identify the path of care they need for the long term. In some cases, the nearest VA hospital is hundreds of miles away," Kuehl emphasized.
However, understanding the holidays are a special time, Kuehl said some Soldiers may be authorized to go home for a short visit, depending on the date they arrive at Camp Shelby.
"Each soldier's needs are different, and some cases require a little more time or care, but we will take the time and effort to get this process right for each soldier. We owe them this time and effort," explained Lt. Col. Andrew Doyle, First Army Division East surgeon.
The soldier's chain of command remains involved every step of the way, helping soldiers make informed decisions either to stay on active duty for additional medical care, or return home and receive that care from hometown providers, explained Kuehl. Representatives from the Department of Veterans Affairs, Employer Support to the Guard and Reserve Program, and many others are also available and assist in the process.
"Our deployment was abundantly successful because we did what we get paid to do - with honor and selfless sacrifice - and succeeded in every mission we were assigned. ... Our team rose to the demands placed ... and can return to their families, homes, and civilian careers in the firm knowledge they did their jobs as genuine American patriots," said Slack.
"I firmly believe we were provided world class training and support while at Camp Shelby and without that care, attention to detail, and the unyielding demand placed upon us to achieve - and at time exceed the standard - our price in casualties would have been far higher than it was. First Army-East served the 27th IBCT well, and we must all consider ourselves in debt to them for their splendid assistance," Slack said.