Story and photo by Maj. Cindi King, South Carolina National Guard Public Affairs
COLUMBIA, S.C. – Family and friends welcomed home more than 130 Soldiers from the South Carolina Army National Guard’s 1223rd Engineer Company after a year-long mobilization and deployment to Afghanistan during a brief ceremony at the Eagle Aviation terminal at Columbia Metropolitan Airport, in West Columbia, S.C., May 14.
Many in the crowd held balloons, welcome home signs and American flags. They packed the terminal as they waited to hear the news that the commercial airliner had landed. The terminal erupted in cheers and thunderous applause as the hangar doors opened, to the welcome sight of the assembled Soldiers.
“These South Carolina Guard Soldiers have represented our state so well in Afghanistan, being recognized as the best engineer unit out of 18 others,” said Maj. Gen. Robert E. Livingston, Jr, the adjutant general for South Carolina. “You make us proud and we are so happy to welcome you home.”
While deployed, the 1223rd Engineer Company supported operations in southern Afghanistan, tearing down 15 bases during the drawdown of forces in theater. They never missed a project deadline, with their average completion time being more than ten days prior to the scheduled end date of all assigned projects.
The unit also supported a project to assist the Bibi Khala Girls’ School in Qalat, Zabul Province. There they were recognized by the Governor of Zabul and Mayor of Qalat, and thanked for their assistance to bring solar power to run 18 computers in the school.
Among their awards, the unit was awarded six Combat Action Badges and 17 Bronze Stars during the deployment.
“You completed every mission asked of you and were recognized as the best engineer unit,” said Capt. Jay Sirmon, commander of the 1223rd Engineer Company. “It was an honor to be your commander. You should be proud of all you’ve accomplished.”