On Saturday afternoon, 47 members of the Georgia National Guard’s 201st Agribusiness Development Team III returned to Marietta’s Clay National Guard Center off Atlanta Road after a 10-month deployment to Afghanistan.
During the return ceremony, family members sat listening to commanders describe the work that had been done overseas.
Small children bounced around to get a glimpse of their mother or father. Parents sat patiently for a chance to hug their returning daughter or son, and young women and men were dressed in their best for that long awaited kiss with their girlfriend or boyfriend.
The anxiousness for
the reuniting ended with the simple word,
Col. Barry Beach told the loved ones, “As promised, we brought all the soldiers back safely.”
That was a major feat, given that from January to October there were 1,700 improvised explosive devices detonated in the region, with double that amount found intact, totaling 5,000 IEDs, Beach said.
Those IEDs resulted in 500 Afghan casualties, but no American troops were injured, Beach said.
Safety overseas, at home
Part of the security detail included two 21-year-old twin brothers, Sean and Kyle Dobson, from Augusta, who were
on their second deployment.
Sgt. Kyle Dobson, who has been with the Georgia National Guard since 2009, said serving together twice overseas is great because, “You always know someone.”
Dobson said being on security detail is an easy job, as long as “you know the guy to your left and the guy to your right.”
That sense of assuredness may not be shared by Dobson’s girlfriend of a year, Eftihia Kountakis, 21, who Dobson has known since the seventh grade.
Kountakis said waiting for Dobson’s return was nerve-wracking and she knew about his arrival date for less than a month.
“And it was always subject to change,” Kountakis said.
While deployed, the couple was lucky to talk once a week for 10 to 15 minutes, sometimes just for a short message by Dobson saying, “I am OK. I love you. I will call in a few days.”
Even with the distance and time apart, Kountakis said it is not hard dating her Army man.
“I love him. He is a good guy, so it was worth it,” Kountakis said. “He really knows respect and how to set priorities.”
The Afghan mission
The deployment of the Agribusiness Development Team was part of a three-year commitment by three different teams to go into remote villages to teach farmers how to grow something besides the number one cash crop, opium.
The first unit deployed for southeastern Afghanistan in the spring of 2011.
Beach said there were times the unit that returned Saturday did not know exactly where the soldiers would live or operate.
“We went into the area totally blind,” Beach said, yet the men and women made “small but measurable progress.”
Training sessions with local farmers and herders included traditional farming methods, horticulture of orchards and vineyard, pest management, irrigation, animal husbandry, food processing, marketing, agricultural engineering, soil science, ice production and storage.
Capt. Chad Tyson, 41, joined the Georgia National Guard ten years ago and works fulltime in the financial department at Marietta’s Clay National Guard Center.
Tyson was teased a bit by family and friends for being too old to enlist.
After returning home from his first deployment, Tyson said, “I can keep up with these guys. It might take me longer to get started, but I finish with them.”
Home for the holidays
The unit was originally stationed out of Augusta, but with the reorganization in the Georgia National Guard, the soldiers returned to the Marietta base where they will now be reporting.
Tyson said his family has a history for generations of serving in the armed forces.
“After 9/11, I felt an urge to be something,” Tyson said. “I thought it was my time.”
Tyons’s mother, Juanita Tyson, lives in California but came to Georgia to be with the family for her son’s return home.
On Saturday afternoon, Juanita Tyson had a proud smile and thankful heart that her son was back safe.
Juanita Tyson said she will stay with the family through the holiday season to ensure her son gets some good food to eat.
Chad Tyson’s two sons, Chase, 6, and Chance, 5, already have a list of duties for daddy when they get home to Jonesboro, including many requests for how to spend some much needed guy time, like hunting down zombies in their favorite video game.
Tyson said he looks forward to being with his sons and also watching his No. 1 volleyball player on the court, his daughter, Taylor.
Sgt. Samantha Barr, from Gainesville, who has been with the Georgia National Guard for five years, returned from her second deployment Saturday afternoon to her five-year-old son, Dylan.
When asked about the best part of his mom coming home, Dylan did not have any words, but could not stop holding on to his mother’s waist and squeezing.
The bear hug prompted Barr to comment on how much taller her son had grown in 10 months.
To Barr, the best part about returning home is being able to cook Thanksgiving dinner, which Barr said she has been planning while overseas.
“I have done nothing but think about food the whole time I’ve been gone,” Barr said.