Cheers, Hugs, Await National Guard Members Returning Home
Contact: Jeff Murphy
WARRENSBURG, MO (Feb. 11, 2014) – With the majority of the Multipurpose Building seats filled with soldiers’ family members and friends, the University of Central Missouri provided the setting for a welcome home ceremony Sunday, Feb. 9 for 324 members of the Missouri National Guard. Men and women of the 1-135th Attack Reconnaissance Battalion were greeted with cheers, hugs, smiles and even tears from audience members who had waited 324 days to see them return home safely from Operation Enduring Freedom.
An estimated crowd of around 5,000 people braved snowy conditions for the ceremony that was scheduled to include remarks by Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon. When weather prevented his attendance, UCM President Charles Ambrose relayed the governor’s well wishes to the service members. He was part of a platform party consisting of locally elected city and state officials, and area Guard leaders. Brig. Gen. Randy Alewel, a Warrensburg resident who also serves as the Missouri National Guard land component commander, also greeted the gathering.
“We all join together on behalf of the great state of Missouri and Gov. Jay Nixon in saying ‘Welcome home,’” Ambrose told the soldiers.
He reminded them that several inches of snow also fell the same day they left for their tour of duty almost a year ago, “but you never left our hearts and our prayers for a safe return. You accomplished a critical mission through Operation Enduring Freedom,” Ambrose said. He thanked Guard members for their service on behalf of the community, state and nation, and for flying both the Missouri flag and the Mule Nation flag over Afghanistan.
“Now you are back. It is our time to serve you,” Ambrose said. “While you are back here to re-integrate into your service to the Guard, we are here to help. So, if there is anything we can do on behalf of the University of Central Missouri to use the resources that we have accessible to us to help you and your families in any meaningful way, all you have to do is ask.”
Alewel thanked the families and others in the audience. He noted, “We all know we can’t accomplish our mission out there without the support of those around us. Today, I want to make sure we recognize all of those who made things happen while you all were focused on the mission overseas.”
He also urged family members to continue to support their Guard members as they complete additional activities associated with their tour of duty. This includes “Yellow Ribbon” activities that will re-integrate them into their community, with their families and employers over the next 90 days.
The 1-135th Attack Reconnaissance Battalion draws soldiers from throughout Missouri, and is headquartered at Whiteman Air Force Base. Soldiers were deployed to support Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan as part of an aviation task force comprised of 37 aircraft of mixed mission design series, according to the Missouri National Guard. While in Afghanistan, the task force operated as part of a unique combat structure consisting of the National Guard and active component soldiers working side-by-side with NATO Allies from German, Sweden, the Netherlands, Mongolia, Armenia, Finland and Latvia.
Program emcee Major John Martin said the 1-135th units flew more than 1,200 combat missions comprised of 12,861 flight hours. These missions included 33 engagements and 46 deliberate air assaults resulting in the capture or kill of 35 named enemy objectives. Additionally, the 1-135th ground support elements pumped over
2 million gallons of fuel and performed aircraft maintenance including turning 11 Apache helicopter phase inspections in nine days each, “an incredible feat considering the Army standard is 25-30 days per inspection.”
“These examples are only a small part of the overwhelming success of the soldiers of the 1-135th Attack Reconnaissance Battalion,” Martin said. “The mission success of the Task Force could not have been achieved without the impressive teamwork and outstanding contributions of each and every soldier. Each one of them, regardless of their position, played a critical role in providing Afghan citizens a more safe and secure environment for their future.”
Martin noted that the battalion earned more than 300 individual awards throughout its formation, including one Purple Heart, 48 Air Medals for achievement and 20 Combat Action Badges. Additionally, due to its impact on the battlefield and the skies over Afghanistan, the unit has been submitted for a Meritorious Unit Citation.