Story and photos by 1st Lt. Jessica Donnelly, 228th Theater Tactical Signal Brigade Public Affairs Officer
SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Approximately 130 members of Bravo Company, 198th Expeditionary Signal Battalion, S.C. National Guard, were officially welcomed home during a Freedom Salute ceremony held at the University Readiness Center in Spartanburg, S.C., May 17, after their nearly yearlong deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
While deployed, the unit was headquartered in Kandahar, Afghanistan and provided strategic and tactical communication to more than 30,000 customers throughout the theater of operations. The unit worked across 20 different locations throughout Afghanistan completing signal missions, managing technical control facilities and supporting radio and full motion video operations, without any Information Assurance or Cross Domain violations.
“The Freedom Salute Ceremony is a special event to recognize accomplishments and you all did an outstanding job during your deployment,” said U.S. Army Brig. Gen. R. Van McCarty, Deputy Adjutant General for South Carolina. “Each of you enlisted or re-enlisted since 9/11, knowing that you could get the call to go to war and we thank you for having answered that call.”
While back home, the unit is stationed out of Hodges, South Carolina, but the Soldiers are members of communities across the state. They will begin their traditional weekend training periods again in June, which U.S. Army First Sgt. Robert Kappel, Bravo Co., 198th ESB first sergeant, explained will be the first time the unit will be working together in more than a year. While deploying, the company left and returned in three separate waves and worked at different locations throughout Afghanistan.
“Today’s the first time the entire company has been together since last May,” added Kappel. “It’s been a good reunion.”
The Freedom Salute Campaign is one of the largest Army National Guard welcome home endeavors in history. It is an event designed to publicly recognize the sacrifice of Army Guard Soldiers, as well as those who have supported them during their deployment. The campaign began in 2003 and has recognized more than 100,000 Soldiers coming home from Operations Noble Eagle, Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. Awards are presented to the service members based on the number of deployments completed and include an American flag in a display box, commemorative coins, medallions, lapel pins and certificates.
“We’re thankful to have you back in South Carolina,” said McCarty. “Thank you for what you’ve done, what you do and what you will be called to do.”