Speaking of a Party Sue...

Jun 7, 2005
The Land of Confusion and Pissed off!
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Does this sound familiar Sue?


'We waited so long for this moment'
After 17 months away from home, the 861st Engineer Company of the Rhode Island Army National Guard gets a warm homecoming yesterday.
01:00 AM EDT on Thursday, June 22, 2006
Journal Staff Writer

WARWICK -- The party started precisely at 1:45 p.m. yesterday, when the 95 guests of honor touched down on the tarmac at T.F. Green Airport.

They'd been traveling for days, and were looking forward to a good time; in a sense, they'd been waiting for this reception since they left home, 17 months ago.

For the 861st Engineer Company of the Rhode Island Army National Guard, home was worth the wait.

"Outstanding," said Ryan Pray as he surveyed the festivities honoring his return home. He and his brother, Tom, were together in the 861, serving as combat engineers all over Iraq. Their parents, Bruce and Libby, said that the feeling of getting their sons back was everything it's cracked up to be.

"It's fantastic. We waited so long for this moment," said Bruce. "It's such a dangerous place, it's great to have them back safe and sound."

"We're very proud of them," said Libby.

Ninety-five members of the 861st, based at Camp Fogarty in East Greenwich, were deployed for 17 months, since January 2005, with 12 of those months spent in Iraq. Because of the changing nature of the war in Iraq, they were forced to abandon their traditional role as support engineers, who play a secondary role building fortifications and river crossings and maintaining electric and water systems, for instance. This company's crowning moment, until now, was helping to dig Rhode Island out of the Blizzard of 1978.

But now, these troops have been transformed into frontline combat engineers, participating in raids on weapons caches and strongpoints, clearing mines and removing explosives.

They spent five months at Camp Shelby, in Mississippi, learning their dangerous new trade.

Then, the unit deployed to Iraq, and from its base at Ramadi, small contingents were sent all over the country to support infantry units.

"They did patrols and reconnaissance all over Iraq," said Capt. Bob King.

Several members were injured during the deployment, but no one from the 861st was killed in action.

Late last week, they flew from Kuwait to Mississippi to de-mobilize, and then boarded a jet for the return home. Yesterday afternoon, they landed at Green, marched across stopped traffic on Airport Road as drivers laid on their horns in welcome, and strode through a corridor of hundreds of friends and family, with signs welcoming back Harry, and Uncle Steve, and of course, daddy. The governor and the lieutenant governor were also on hand to greet them.

In between the kisses and tears and the reunions, the primary topic was game-planning the first thing soldiers would do now that they're back home.

For a unit that just spent a tremendous amount of time surrounded by sand, a surprising number said they couldn't wait to head to the beach.

"The beach," said Tom Pray.

"Go to the beach," said Randolph Miller. "Oh, and golfing."

"Probably hit the beach," said Jeff Nelson, "I just want to walk around without shoes on again."

Freddie Gil was going to take his three daughters, Casie, 5, Emily, 4, and even perhaps Jadyn, 11 months, out fishing.

"Man, they're so much bigger than when I left them," he said.

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Glad to hear it Nickle...

Make sure the folks here at NES said "Thank you" to them all for protecting us!
Nickle tell them Welcome Home. 17 months is a long time. As I told Alan not to hold their breath,seeing how they were late in getting over there.
Actually units that do their mission are usually gone longer, since the validation process before they leave takes longer. TF Sabre even had to validate at Ft Irwin, at the NTC before they could deploy. That's what happens when you're Combat Arms (they're Armor, doing a RSTA mission).
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