A group of Iowa National Guard soldiers will be sent off to an assignment overseas at the end of the week, while another will be welcomed home from a year-long deployment. Guard spokesman, Colonel Greg Hapgood, says a ceremony Friday will send off 40 soldiers with 248th Aviation Support Battalion headquartered in Boone. “These soldiers will spend the next year in Kosovo working with the U.S. aviation unit stationed there,” Hapgood says.
The unit also has detachments with soldiers from Waterloo and Davenport. “These soldiers specialize in Blackhawk aircraft,” Hapgood explains, “they fuel, maintain and also provide test pilot services for the upkeep of those aircraft.”
The community sendoff ceremony for the will be held at 5 p.m. Friday at the Boone High School gym. “We’d love to see anyone who’d like to come out and wish these soldiers off and wish them well for the next year on this adventure,” Hapgood says.
While those soldiers says their good-byes, a day later 100 soldiers will be welcomed back.”Approximately 100 soldiers from the 833rd Engineer Company have spent the last year in Afghanistan. They will return home to Ottumwa on Saturday, November 23rd at one p.m.at Evans Middle School,” according to Hapgood.
This group had a very dangerous mission. “These soldiers are combat engineers, but during their tour in Afghanistan they’ve specialized in clearing improvised explosive devices — finding these devices and then neutralizing them,” Hapgood says. “These soldiers have cleared more than 12,000 kilometers of roads in the past year during this tour.”
And all their dangerous work ended without any casualties. “The unit will bring all soldiers home safe. They’ve had an excellent tour and have done tremendous work in Afghanistan,” Hapgood says. That work included over 200 route clearance missions with an IED find and clear rate of over 75-percent.
The return of the 833rd marks a milestone for the Iowa National Guard. “That will leave zero National Guard soldiers in Afghanistan,” Hapgood says. “And with the departure of Company B of the 248th Aviation Support Battalion — those will be our only soldiers currently deployed somewhere in the world.”
The public community homecoming ceremony for then Ottumwa-based unit is set for 3 p.m. Saturday at Evans Middle School gym, 812 Chester Avenue in Ottumwa.