Staff Sgt. Nicholas Scobert hugged his mother and good friend, relieved that his latest overseas deployment may be his last.
As the United States and coalition forces wind down the war in Afghanistan, the number of troops deployed there has also declined.
“Another deployment ... we’ll see,” he said, standing with his mother, Debbie Richardson of Fallon.
This marked Scobert’s third deployment to Afghanistan, this time to the western part of the country, which is referred to as Regional Command West.
The military reunion was one of relief as the first of two groups of Nevada Army National Guardsmen returned Sunday morning to the Reno-Tahoe International Airport after being deployed to Afghanistan for 10 months. The company arrived in Texas on Feb. 9 after serving most of its mission performing medical evacuations in a military district that borders Iran.
Thirteen guardsmen arrived Sunday morning, and 27 more — including the company’s commander Capt. Andrew Wagner — touched down in Reno Sunday night.
Maj. Dennis Fournier, state public affairs officer, said the company performed medical evacuation missions using Black Hawk helicopters. Eight helicopters have returned to Nevada.
Scobert said it “was wonderful as always” to return home. He added the unit was busy enough but not overwhelmed with missions.
The 1998 Churchill County High School graduate has been in the Nevada National Guard for 12 years and previously served in Regional Command-South (Kandahar) and Forward Operating Base Shank, which is southwest of Kabul.
In a 2008 interview with the LVN, he said Afghanistan reminded him of the hills of Nevada.
“Another tour, different unit,” Scobert said. “It’s a beautiful country, and the people are genuinely wanting our help.”
Before joining the National Guard, Scobert spent eight years in the U.S. Army, having deployed to Macedonia and Bosnia.
Richardson, who had been sitting in a waiting area opposite the escalators, said homecomings are worth the wait.
“You betcha,” she quickly replied when asked.
During her son’s deployment, she said they had good communication through online sources, which made the days go by quickly.
“For me, it went by pretty fast,” she said.
Jesse Newman, who was in the same unit with the Fallon soldier, deployed once with Scobert. Newman, a good friend who spent six years in the Nevada Guard, echoed Richardson’s feelings about homecomings.
“It feels great, awesome, with him coming home,” said Newman, who has deployed seven times to Afghanistan as a civilian contractor. “He’s coming home in one piece.”
Retired Nevada guardsman Jim Groth also waited anxiously for both his son and son-in-law. Likewise, Groth’s daughter, Alyssa Harrison, said the homecoming would be a day to remember for her and her husband, both high school sweethearts at Carson High School.
Jim Groth’s son, Josh, who grew up in Carson City but now lives in Reno, served his first deployment overseas with C Company, 1/168th General Support Battalion based at Stead’s Army Aviation Support Facility. While Chief Warrant Officer 2 Josh Groth couldn’t wait to see his friends and parents, his first remark was directed toward the huge crowd waiting for the soldiers, many holding handmade signs or waving U.S. flags.
“It’s amazing how many people are here,” he said, before hugging a friend.
Prior to transferring to the aviation company, Groth spent eight years in a scout and mortar platoon that drilled at the Fallon Armory. Before he deployed, Groth said he was grateful to serve a deployment to Afghanistan before the U.S. began to pull back units.
Harrison said the 10 months went by fairly quickly as she waited with her four children.
“It was not as long as I expected, Harrison said of the deployment. “We’ve been busy with vacations and other things, but today is the best day of my life … better than our wedding day and the children’s births.”
Harrison said the ability to communicate with her husband almost every day made the deployment easier to bear.
“But there were patches of days we couldn’t communicate,” she said, explaining there were blackout periods. “But when he hit U.S. soil, I had a sigh of relief.”
1st Lt. Nigel Harrison, a Black Hawk pilot, said he was also happy to return to Nevada, but he said the mission was successful even with the war winding down.
“I was thankful to be with good soldiers, and with the soldiers from Washington and California, we really had a great group,” he said.
The battalion included helicopter companies from northern California and Washington state. The company, which has undergone several unit designation changes during its history, previously deployed twice to Afghanistan and once each to Kosovo in the 1990s and to Fort Carson, Colo., in 2004.
“RC West was extremely quiet because most of the action was down south,” Nigel Harrison said.