They were deployed to Afghanistan around Thanksgiving 2009, and for a while it was uncertain whether they’d be home before Christmas 2010.
Tuesday morning, the returning eight members of the Delaware National Guard 160th Engineer Company were officially welcomed home during a ceremony at the Middletown Volunteer Hose Company. They spent the past year working with members of the Hawaii Army National Guard on a variety of jobs: building wood frame observation posts, repairing and improving the infrastructure of their operating bases, and conducting tactical logistics patrols throughout Afghanistan.
DNG Adjutant General Frank Vavala said the men were working in some of the most dangerous regions in Afghanistan helping to “build a foundation of hope and trust between our nation and the Afghan people.”
“They’re really the face of our National Guard, always ready, always reliable, and forever relevant to meet our nation’s call, to do whatever, whenever and wherever we’re needed,” Vavala said.
Sgt. Bruce Stevens of Dover was in charge of making sure supplies were available wherever they were needed, and on time. In addition to working with Guard colleagues, they also instructed and worked alongside Afghan nationals and Afghan soldiers.
“It was a job, it was a task, but we got it done,” Stevens said. “They’re safer for it, and they made sure they looked out for us as we looked out for everyone else.”
Sgt. Lawrence Gregg of Harrington was on his second deployment, after also being deployed during Operation Desert Storm. He knew in advance how long this mission would last, but did not know exactly what they would be doing until arriving.
It did not take long to realize that the Afghan people were appreciative.
“Working with the locals over there, you had times where you had to be careful, but in most cases they were friendly,” Gregg said.
Their return home was also an adventure. They arrived at BWI Airport last week and were whisked away to Fort Dix New Jersey for a demobilization process that normally takes five days. However, the soliders went through the process in 40 hours, in time to join their families for the holidays.
The group also included Sgt. Donald Wyrick, SPC Paul Rominiecki, SPC Richard Walls, SPC Shane Gardner, SPC Edward Feeley and SPC Jonathan Parrish.
Newsworks and First photographer Paul Parmelee captured some of the highlights of the ceremony on video.