Firefighting team returns from Afghanistan on 9/11

Story and photos by Sgt. Scott Raymond, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs Office

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Six of the seven members of the 176th Engineer Firefighting Team stand at attention during the unit’s welcome home ceremony in Greenville, Ky., Sept. 11, 2012. The unit spent a year deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. (Kentucky National Guard photo by Sgt. Scott Raymond)

GREENVILLE, Ky. – On the eleventh anniversary of 9/11, the Kentucky National Guard welcomed home the Soldiers of the 176th Engineer Firefighting Team during a ceremony in Greenville, Ky.  The unit deployed to Afghanistan exactly one year ago on September 11, 2011.

Friends, family members and the Greenville Fire Department greeted the Soldiers at the Muhlenberg County Airport, and then accompanied them to the unit’s home at the nearby Wendell H. Ford Regional Training Center.

The escort took on a parade-like atmosphere in Greenville, and the patriotism of small-town America was evident as citizens took to the streets and proclaimed their support.  Soldiers of the 176th said they had the best seat in the house, sitting atop two fire trucks as they wound through the city streets.  Kentucky State Command Sergeant Major, Command Sgt. Maj. Gregory Armstrong called it an amazing and dynamic community response in welcoming the Soldiers home.

To see more photos from the 176th’s return home, click here.

Spc. Matthew Stevens from Cedar Hill, Tenn., was awe-struck at the number of people that came out to welcome his unit home.

“What a great entrance for coming home,” he said. “For such a small town, they were so energetic. It was amazing.”

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Sgt. Aaron Watts of Versailles, Ky., holds his son, Cameron, during the 176th Engineer Firefighting Team’s welcome home ceremony in Greenville, Ky., Sept. 11, 2012. The unit was welcomed home by friends, family members and a parade through Greenville, thanks to the city’s fire department. (Kentucky National Guard photo by Sgt. Scott Raymond)

School children from Muhlenberg North Middle School lined the fence of their playground and waved American Flags and welcome home signs.  People of all ages packed the sidewalks of Main Street and cheered and waved to the Soldiers as they rode by.

Greenville Fire Chief, Jerry Aders remembered sending the unit off a year ago to a small parade, and was thrilled with the out-pouring of support for the Soldiers’ return.

“It is so great to have everyone back,” he said. “They are still our ‘angels in camouflage’ as I have called them.  The Guard is such a blessing to our community.”

On the tenth anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks, the 176th deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.  During their departure ceremony, it was said how important it was to honor Guardsmen deploying to the combat zone where it all started.

September 11 now permeates through the 176th like it does for many Americans, but now for a new reason.

Spc. Logan Brumit was 13-years-old in 2001, now he is a combat veteran from the war on terror.

“I’m proud today to help commemorate the lives of the firefighters that were lost that day,” said Brumit.  “And I’m glad to do my part in serving my country and my community.”

“This gives the memory of that day a new meaning and sheds a positive light on it,” said the Bowling Green, Ky., native.

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A Soldier with the 176th Engineer Firefighting Team embraces a family member during the unit’s welcome home ceremony in Greenville, Ky., Sept. 11, 2012. The unit returned to a parade through the streets of Greenville and a small ceremony at Wendell H. Ford Regional Training Center before being released to their families. (Kentucky National Guard photo by Sgt. Scott Raymond)

The 176th’s deployment was the unit’s first overseas tour.  The seven-member unit was responsible for protecting the lives of their fellow Service members and their equipment at airfields and forward operating bases.

Staff Sgt. Wesley LaFortune, 176th non-commissioned officer in charge said in addition to fighting fires, the unit also trained Afghani fire departments and provided OSHA classes at various locations.

“Team Seven, as we liked to call each other, did an outstanding job,” said LaFortune. “They stayed motivated, stayed productive regardless of the training or duty.”

Brig. Gen. Mike Richie, Deputy Adjutant General for the Kentucky National Guard was on hand to greet the 176th.  Richie said the unit, while small, held a large responsibility overseas and executed their mission in the high standards of the Kentucky Guard.

“The Soldiers of the 176th represented the United States Army, the Kentucky National Guard and the Commonwealth of Kentucky with professionalism, honor and a sense of duty that we can all appreciate.”

“And no day can be more fitting for Soldiers to come home than this day,” he said

Since 9/11, more than 14,000 Kentucky National Guard Soldiers and Airmen have mobilized in support of the Global War on Terror.

 

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