War on Terrorism

Monday, June 11, 2012

Six Soldiers return home from joint UAV operations in Afghanistan

By Tech. Sgt. Jon LaDue
Wisconsin National Guard

Wisconsin National Guard leaders, family and friends welcomed home six Red Arrow Soldiers Wednesday (June 6) at the Dane County Regional Airport from their deployment to Afghanistan where they operated the RQ-7 Shadow 200 unmanned aerial vehicle.

The Tactical Unmanned Aerial System (TAUS) Soldiers returned from demobilization training at Camp Shelby, Miss., where they concluded their approximate year-long mobilization in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

"Congratulations and welcome home," said Brig. Gen. Mark Anderson, commander of the Wisconsin Army National Guard.

The six Soldiers, members of Company B, Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, worked as a joint team in Afghanistan - providing a bird's eye view to their brothers in arms.

"It was a big change, supporting the Marines," said Sgt. Robert Haack, who was welcomed home by his parents, four sisters and extended family, "but as far as the aviation side of the house, it was all pretty much the same and we knew what to expect."

Lt. Col. David Sands, who became the battalion's new commander while the Soldiers were deployed, was kept up to date on their progress and is glad to have them home.

"We're very proud of the job you did over there," Sands said, noting that all of Company B will benefit from their deployment.

"I believe it actually expands the experience of the entire unit," he said. "That experience they gained will be shared with the rest of the Soldiers in our unit."

Annemarie, mother of Sgt. Zachary Michalak, said communication with her son was pretty good while he was deployed. The entire family would drop what they were doing whenever he'd call, she said, adding that she appreciated hearing from her son's unit as well.

"I do have to say that [Staff Sgt. Lucas] Gordon always called and said the guys were doing a good job - I liked that feedback," Annemarie said. "I'm very proud of all these boys, especially Robert, that they answered the call. I appreciate men and women who step to answer the call."

Maj. Gen. Don Dunbar, adjutant general of Wisconsin, spoke to the Soldiers.

"I just want to welcome you home ... tremendous job, I couldn't be prouder of what you've just done," Dunbar said.

As each of the Wisconsin Guard leaders stated at the airport, the Soldiers' next job is to take some time to reintegrate back into their lives. The leaders took the opportunity to stress the benefits and importance of the three-phase reintegration program the Soldiers will go through over the next 12 months.

"It's a great way to understand the resources and benefits available to you ... that you've earned," Anderson said. "The important thing here is you take this time, decompress and spend some time with your family.

Dunbar stressed that deploying in support of a contingency operation is no small, inconsequential feat.

"It's a big deal to put your uniform on, it's a big deal to serve your country, and it's a big deal to go overseas and serve in a combat zone ... so thank you," Dunbar said.

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