After nearly a year in Afghanistan, Lt. Col. Todd Grigsby, commander of the Alabama Army National Guard’s 115th Expeditionary Signal Battalion, said the unit is heading home.
“We’re getting ready. We‘re trying to work our way out of a job and come home,” Grigsby said Friday morning from Afghanistan. “At this point, everything is going as planned. We hope to have everyone home by the end of October or early November. Hopefully, nothing will happen to slow that down.”
The unit, headquartered in Florence, began its deployment last October, with training at Joint Base Lewis-McCord in Washington state. After six weeks, the unit went to Afghanistan.
Major Barry Clayton, rear detachment commander, said some members of the advance group are back in the U.S. at Fort Bliss, Texas.
“The rest will be following soon,” Clayton said.
The 115th consists of soldiers from throughout northwest Alabama. The unit involves A Company in Florence, B Company in Sheffield and Haleyville, and C Company in Huntsville and Moulton.
Clayton said nearly 500 members of the unit were deployed.
With the pending return of the soldiers, family members have been busy getting ready and trying to get the communities throughout the region involved.
“We want our soldiers to have a great welcome celebration, so we’ve been going to a lot of the businesses asking them to put up signs, yellow ribbons, flags, just something to welcome our troops home,” said Christi Nelson, chairwoman for A Company’s family readiness group.
Nelson’s husband, Kirk, and her brother, Matthew Montgomery, are both deployed.
“I’m ready for them to come home; we’re all ready for them to come home,” she said. “And it’s so important that we show how much we appreciate them and what they have done for us.”
Florence Mayor Bobby Irons is encouraging businesses and residents to show their support for the return of the guard unit.
“These men and women are very special to us and held in highest esteem,” Irons said. “We want to let them know how proud we are of them and how grateful we are for their service.”
He is asking the area to display flags, ribbons and signs to honor the soldiers as well as placing messages on marquees and windows.
Susan Brannan and her 4-year-old daughter, Madison, have been preparing for the return of their husband and father, Major James Brannan.
“Our neighbors have even come over and painted signs to put up welcoming him home,” Brannan said. “We’re all excited for them to be home.”
Grigsby said he and the other soldiers are as anxious to get home as their families are to have them home.
“We’re all doing OK. It’s been a lot of work, but the end is in sight,” he said.
He said the unit is transitioning out.
“We’re showing the new unit the ropes,” Grigsby said. “We’ve got people scattered all over Afghanistan, and we’re bringing them in.
“We’re all getting a little eager right now (to get home). Long hours, seven days a week for a year. It’s been quite an experience, but it does put a toll on you.
“It’s going to be a great Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday for all of us and our families this year. We’ll be celebrating in style at home.”
Tom Smith can be reached at 256-740-5757 or tom.smith@TimesDaily.com.
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