SMYRNA, Tenn. – Soldiers from the Tennessee National Guard’s 251st Military Police Company stepped back onto Tennessee soil for the first time Saturday, as they returned from their nearly yearlong deployment to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Family and friends joyfully welcomed home the company’s 103 soldiers after they touched down at Volunteer Training Site – Smyrna.
After their reunion, the soldiers loaded a bus headed to Lexington, Tenn., where the town held a homecoming celebration in their honor. Accompanied by Patriot Guard Riders and escorted by the Tennessee Highway Patrol, Henderson County Sheriff’s Department and Lexington Police Department, soldiers of the 251st came home to a reception of cheering neighbors and friends.
Lt. Col. Jennifer Steed, commander of the 168th Military Police Battalion, said the company performed admirably during their detainee operations mission in the heart of Afghanistan. Most importantly, she said, they brought their brothers and sisters home safely.
“They came home with everyone they went over with,” she said with a smile as her soldiers reunited with their families.
Steed said units from her battalion, including the 251st, have been continuously deployed since the beginning of the Guard’s efforts in Afghanistan. Their return now marks the end of this frequent deployment cycle.
“This is the first time in a long time the 168th has had all of our units at home,” Maj. Russell Newbill, the battalion’s executive officer said. “Having them home now finally makes the battalion complete.”