229th returns home

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Rusty Smith, of Prairie du Chien, shares a delightful moment with his daughter, April, at Volk Field Air National Guard Base at Camp Douglas when the 229th Engineering Company returned to Wisconsin Thursday, July 11. (Flowers, Fotos & Footage Photography by Stephanie)
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Maj. Gen. Donald Dunbar, the adjutant general, Maj. Jesse Augustine, the commander of the 229th Engineer Company, and Brig. Gen. Mark Anderson, the assistant adjutant general for Army, show off their 229th Engineer Company belt buckles shortly after the unit's return to Fort Bliss, Texas, June 30. The unit presented the general officers with the belt buckles during their sendoff ceremony last September. (Wisconsin National Guard photo by 1st Lt. Joe Trovato)
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Soldiers of the 229th Engineer Company, headquartered in Prairie Du Chien, Wis., disembark the plane upon returning to the Fort Bliss, Texas, June 30, after nine months in Afghanistan. The unit is demobilizing at Fort Bliss before returning to Wisconsin. (Wisconsin National Guard photo by 1st Lt. Joe Trovato)

By Caitlin Bittner

Last summer, at the end of August, the 229th Engineer Company based out of Prairie du Chien received a send-off party with more than 1,000 guests in attendance before being deployed to Afghanistan in September.

During the past year, the 229th, a horizontal engineering unit, was responsible for expanding forward operating bases and combat outposts as well as building and improving roads, helicopter pads and other surfaces.

Their work helped to provide increased mobility on the combat roads and trails of Kandahar province.

The unit was also involved in the construction of persistent surveillance balloon systems that kept a watchful eye on the region.

The engineers additionally extended two forward operating bases, built seven roads in Panawa’i district and earned 23 Combat Action Badges in the process. Before leaving Afghanistan, the company conducted 586 missions, with its combat circulation team alone completing 150 missions.

On June 30, the 229th unit finally made it back to the United States, arriving in Fort Bliss, Texas, to start the demobilization process.

“The company, the soldiers did an unbelievable job,” said Maj. Jesse Augustine, the 229th commander. “Because so many of the National Guard and Reserve Component operators are professional operators—either heavy equipment carpenters, or mechanics on the civilian side or as technicians for the Wisconsin Army National Guard—the level of professionalism is unmatched.

“I would be hard-pressed to say there was a better engineer unit in theater while we were there,” Augustine continued. “They were unbelievable.”

After being greeted by Wisconsin National Guard senior leaders, including leaders from the 157th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Maj. Gen. Donald Dunbar, Wisconsin adjutant general, and Brig. Gen. Mark Anderson, the assistant adjutant general for the Army, all that most members of the 229th could think about was getting home and seeing their families and friends.

On July 11, the troops finally got their wishes when they arrived at Volk Field at Camp Douglas in Juneau County. At 1:15 p.m., a special ceremony was held, and troops were reunited with friends and family. Gov. Scott Walker was also present to help welcome the unit back to Wisconsin.

Although a plan has yet to be set for a public celebration of the unit’s return, the Friends of the 229th and the 229th’s Family Readiness Group are hoping to get something in the works before the unit reports back to drill in early December.

Stay tuned to the Courier Press for more information regarding the return of the 229th Engineer Company.

The unit previously deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003, and Operation Desert Storm in 1990.

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