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By Jennifer Archdekin
TRENTON, Mo. - After traveling more than 450,000 miles while in Afghanistan, the Missouri Army National Guard's 548th Transportation Company, based in Trenton, travelled its last deployment mission - their journey home.
Nearly 170 Citizen-Soldiers returned to Missouri on Saturday, April 14. Family, friends and supporters gathered at two welcome home ceremonies in Trenton and Jefferson City.
"The job these men and women did, under the conditions that they had, was about as tough as I have seen when I was in Iraq or Afghanistan -- this was not an easy deployment for this unit," said Maj. Gen. Stephen L. Danner, adjutant general of the Missouri National Guard.
Danner visited the unit in December 2011 while they were serving overseas.
"Not only was their mission challenging, but their living quarters were small, on a base in western Afghanistan," said Danner. "I can't say enough about what they did with the mission and how they handled themselves professionally. I couldn't be more proud of them than I am today."
Capt. Douglas Adams, company commander, called the mission a success.
"We spent a long time together as brothers and sisters in arms," said Adams, of Holts Summit. "The company performed its mission admirably. We had a good deployment, but there's nothing like being home with our Families and loved ones."
The welcome home ceremonies were not only for the Soldiers returning, but also for those that supported them in their absence.
Melodi Rothove, of Polo, was anxious for her two sons, Staff Sgt. Jeromy Rothove, of Rayville, and Sgt. Justin Rothove, of Polo, to make it back. She said she couldn't wait to see the smiles on their faces.
"I'm really proud of them," said Rothove as she was moved to tears. "It's been rough because we're a very close Family. It's been hard."
The year-long separation generated countless letters and packages from home. On average the mail section handled more than 600 pieces of mail per week for the unit. During the holiday season it swelled to more than 1,000 pieces a week. It was no surprise for both ceremonies to be filled with well-wishers.
"It was all so humbling to see everyone come out and greet us," said Sgt. 1st Class Christine Chaney, of Brimson. "We knew we were supported at home during the deployment, but it was humbling to see it firsthand."
Adams said he was pleased to bring all 170 members of the unit home safely.
"That was the most important mission in my mind when we went," Adams said. "It wasn't all the missions that we conducted or materials that we moved; it was bringing these folks back safe and sound."
Sgt. 1st Class Scott Sieb, of Jefferson City, said training really paid dividends for his platoon.
"We worked real hard to make sure that before every mission we went on, we did the right things," said Sieb.
Ensuring everyone stayed out of harm's way was top priority for Sieb, as well as a lot of pressure.
"Getting home with everyone safe is like a huge weight lifted off my shoulders," said Sieb. "We've geared up to do this for two years, and to be finished with it 100 percent feels really good."
The "Road Warriors" were centrally stationed at Shindand Air Base in the austere region of western Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Teams were also positioned at Forward Operating Base Pasab, Camp Stone, Camp Leatherneck and Kandahar Air Field.
The unit worked long hours while exposed to dangers presented by insurgents and improvised explosive devices. They conducted over 300 convoy missions transporting more than 20 million pounds of equipment to six forward operating bases and three village stability operations, travelling through some of the harshest terrain in Afghanistan. The company was a vital link in the supply chain to not only American forces in the region, but also Italian and Spanish Soldiers.
"Some of our missions were 18 hours and some were three to five days," Adams said. "The preparation, conducting and recovering for the missions would usually take four days. There was always a mission going out, being loaded or being recovered from."
The maintenance section worked tirelessly to ensure all vehicles were fully mission-capable at all times. The section averaged an operational readiness rate in excess of 94 percent throughout the deployment and completed 642 work orders.
The unit boasted an impeccable safety record as they traveled the equivalent of a trip to the moon and back without a single injury to any personnel on any mission due to accidents.
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