Kentucky unit returns to familiar territory in Afghanistan

Story and photos by Spc. John Rader, 149th VCC Unit Public Affairs Historian Representative

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1st Sgt. Grayden Colegrove of the 149th VCC hands over the company to Capt. Adam Evans for the first formation to begin a scheduled 9-month deployment in Bagram, Afghanistan. The unit last deployed to Afghanistan in 2008 as a combat engineer company, but transitioned to vertical construction to work in the same area of the country. (Kentucky National Guard photo by Spc. John Rader)

BAGRAM, Afghanistan–Soldiers of the 149th Vertical Construction Company set foot on the airfield at Bagram Air force Base in Afghanistan March 18, 2013, for the start of a scheduled 9-month deployment.  After the long journey overseas, the Kentucky Guardsmen were ready to build a solid foundation for a successful time in country.

“I’m glad everyone arrived safely. Now it’s time to get battle focused and proceed with our mission,” said Sgt. Andrew Wiglesworth.

This is the second deployment to Afghanistan for Wiglesworth as well as many others in the unit in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. The first deployment was in 2008-2009 where the unit conducted route clearance missions as combat engineers to ensure safe travel and to fight the ongoing battle against improvised explosive devices. Now the 149th is tasked with construction missions in the same area they have been familiarized with in the past.

Bagram is the first stop of many for the 149th VCC during the next nine months.

Warrant Officer Jacob Lewis summed it up by saying, “Our mission and goal is to complete base operations entailing construction, deconstruction, maintenance, and retrofitting existing structures all around the RC (Regional Command) East territory”.

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Sgt. Timothy Elder of the 149th Vertical Construction Company dons the IR flag patch that replaces the state side American flag patch as he boards the plane headed for Afghanistan.  (Kentucky National Guard photo by Spc. John Rader)

The unit has trained as vertical engineers in the years following their last deployment as they have transitioned from a combat engineer unit. This allows the unit to be very versatile in an environment where your mission can change at a moment’s notice, from installing electrical wiring in a new structure one day to transporting lumber from one base to another the next day. The 149th will utilize training from both fields and implement what is necessary for each assignment.

Many of the unit’s engineers are excited to be here as it is their first assignment down range. The 149th has had extensive training in the months leading up to this deployment, focusing on battle drills and maintaining mission readiness to support any tasks that may arise.

“From the well-organized preparation from the state of Kentucky during pre-mobilization training, to the battle drills we worked on at our mobilization site in Ft. Bliss, I feel positive that we can handle any situation we could be faced with in the months to come,” said Sgt. Gary Forsyth. “I’m just ready to get this show on the road and begin the journey back home.”

The unit will move out of Bagram soon to its first duty station in country where it will begin to conduct the first of its many assignments.

“Capitalizing on the knowledge of experienced Soldiers and leaders as well as the highly energetic newcomers of the 149th, every mission will be carried out effectively and proficiently to the highest standards of the Military and the Kentucky National Guard,” said Capt. Adam Evans, Commander of the 149th. “Before we know it, every single one of us will be back home with our families and proud of the jobs we have done.”

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