March 02, 2019 06:35 PM
Dozens of National Guard members were welcomed home at a special ceremony on Saturday. They are part of the 347th Regional Support Group, which deployed to both Kuwait and Afghanistan.
Fifty soldiers, in three units, were stationed overseas for nine months.
“I’m just very happy to be home and reunited with my family,” said Staff Sgt. Emily Nyquist. “I could do with a little less snow but it's good to be home.”
This is her tenth year with the National Guard. She was stationed in Kuwait, supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.
Nyquist worked in a safety office alongside three civilians.
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“We would manage anything from explosive safety to inspections, fire safety, electrical safety and many other things,” she said.
She and the 38 other members of her company returned to the U.S. in December.
The two other units, the personal services team and the casualty liaison team, returned in October.
The five-soldier personal services team was based in Kuwait in support of the Special Operations Joint Task Force. They provided human resource support and finance operations to help efforts across five areas, including Syria, Iraq and Jordan.
The casualty liaison team worked with two hospitals in Afghanistan to track soldiers wounded and killed in action.
“That information gets put into a system that ends up back with the families and primary next of kin so it's really important to get that information correct,” said Commander Johnny Villarreal.
“Supporting all of the soldiers that are in that particular region is an important mission and it's continuing now, we have another casualty liaison team there in Afghanistan currently.”
A third team is preparing to deploy. Commander Villarreal says in all, the company will have a presence there for about two years.
He told us about half of the team members that deployed with him had served overseas previously. We asked if their efforts were successful.
“As far as zero casualties taken by the company and the mission itself, they were successful missions and really exceeded expectations in my mind,” said Commander Villarreal.
It was a long nine months away from family members.
Staff Sgt. Nyquist said she relied on phone conversations and video chat, “which worked half the time” to stay in touch with her fiancé.
Still, returning home after a deployment can be difficult. Commander Villarreal said ceremonies like this provide essential support.
“It really helps us get those resources available to our soldiers so that we can lead successful lives,” he said.
There was information available about financial and educational options.
Gov. Tim Walz spoke at the ceremony, thanking the soldiers for their service.
“Once again Minnesota sets the bar high,” said Gov. Walz. “Our troops were commended for the entire mission and there are folks in Kuwait and Afghanistan that are free because of the group today.”
It was the first time the former Senator and National Guard members have attended a welcome home ceremony since becoming Governor.
“The responsibility as a member of Congress to send our daughters and sons to war is the most humbling and terrifying decision you make,” he said. “As the Commander in Chief of the Minnesota National Guard, this is my supreme responsibility, being here and making that commitment to them publicly that we will never leave a single person behind is critical.”
He also committed to providing resources for training.
“[The ceremony] is heartwarming, you see how many people are so supportive of the armed forces,” said Nyquist.
Updated: March 02, 2019 06:35 PM
Created: March 02, 2019 05:52 PM
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