“It generally depends on how many soldiers are travelling through at any given time,” Hapgood said.
Whitaker said he heard some hints that the National Guard was aiming for a Saturday homecoming, but nothing official until Thursday. He has talked to Gabe most nights since the soldiers started arriving back at Fort McCoy. Just having him back in the United States was a big step, and now everyone’s ready to get him back home.
“Everyone around here has been smiling pretty big,” Whitaker said.
Soldiers with the 833rd went on active duty last June. It was the second deployment for many of the soldiers, who also deployed when the unit was known as Co. B of the 224th Engineer Battalion.
The company is trained in sapper skills, which means they perform route clearance missions and protect military convoys. The training is particularly important for units in Iraq, since roadside bombs are a favorite means for insurgents to attack American troops.
The 833rd’s expertise in those skills was a big part of the reason they were called back to active duty so quickly. Military officials said the unit was rated as one of the best in the Army and was selected based on that strength.
During the deployment, the 833rd is credited with conducting 495 combat patrols. Those patrols turned up 100 improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and 13 pieces of unexploded ordnance. The military says the soldiers destroyed 55 of those explosive devices in place and cleared more than 40,000 miles of roads.