781st returns from ‘dangerous mission’

Published 3:44 pm Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Alabama Army National Guard’s 781st Transportation Company returned Friday from a nearly year-long deployment to Afghanistan. (Advocate Staff/Michael Rodgers)

With the Calhoun High School marching band leading the way and a crowd of cheering supporters and family members to welcome them back to Fort Deposit, the Alabama Army National Guard 781st Transportation Company came home Friday from a nearly year-long deployment to Afghanistan.

In February of 2012, the 781st deployed 120 Alabama National Guardsmen in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

The unit has been deployed three times in the last 20 years, including Operation Desert Storm, to foreign fields of battle, Brig. Gen. Allen Harrell said.

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Harrell, who serves as director of the joint staff of the Alabama Army National Guard, said the 781st served in a security capacity, which he called Harrell said is one of the most dangerous missions a unit can undertake.

Harrell said the unit did “a tremendous job.”

“I received a note from a brigade commander telling us what a wonderful job these people were doing,” Harrell said.

He also said the company was known as “the go to company.”

According to Harrell, the company did more than 85 combat logistical patrols to more than 20 forward operating bases in two different areas, had six Bronze Star recipients and received the Meritorious Unit Award.

He called that an “outstanding record of service.”

Harrell said the Fort Deposit community has also rallied to the call.

“It’s a great thing for Fort Deposit and surrounding community, what you have done. You are all true Americans. And in addition to these heroes up here on the stage, I’m telling you family and friends, you are heroes too,” he said.

1st Lt. Keaton Price serves as commander of the 781st.  He dismissed the unit to waiting family and friends.

“I can’t tell you how proud I am of these men and women standing here before you,” he said. “They’ve gone above and beyond.”

Fort Deposit Mayor Fletcher Fountain said he was elated to see the 781st return home.

“To God be the glory,” he said. “We’re so grateful to see all of you back, and on behalf of the town of Fort Deposit, the five member council and the 1,356 citizens (of Fort Deposit), welcome home,” he said.

First grade teacher Lindsey Croley of Fort Deposit Elementary brought a group of students the cheer the returning troops in.

Leigh Barr of Troy was on hand to welcome her husband Adam Barr home.

“We’re just excited to get our family back together and be complete again,” she said.

She and her husband have three children.

“It feels good, just to know that God took care of us,” Adam Barr said. “We were in some dangerous places. We were able to serve our country, and I’m proud of the guys, proud of everything we accomplished, and it’s good to be home.”

Tierra Brundidge or Red Level was on hand to welcome her brother home.

“I’m extremely happy,” she said.

Courtney Hanks, along with her 6-year-old son Landon, was on hand to welcome home her husband, Staff Sgt. Dustin Hanks.

“It’s an amazing feeling,” she said of the homecoming. “You just can’t imagine being separated that long. And we’re just happy to see them home and safe and we’re very proud of the job that they did while they were over there.”

Specialist Kevin Mills of Atlanta, Ga., came home to Fort Deposit.

“I’m just so happy to be back. It’s been a long time. I’ve missed my family like crazy. It was all worth it now that I’m finally here and back and getting to see them and hold them. I’m just glad I made it back and was able to do something right over there. And it’s all worth it now,” he said.