Gov. Brian Sandoval, along with a contingency from the state’s military department, welcomed home Northern Nevada soldiers on Saturday who were involved in the second largest deployment of Nevada Army National guardsmen since 2010.
In April of that year, the 1st Squadron, 221st Cavalry deployed to Afghanistan with 450 soldiers.
The 17th Sustainment Brigade received a welcome when they returned to southern Nevada earlier this year, but a bad Reno winter storm in February pushed back Saturday’s ceremony to the first drill weekend in March.
Nevertheless, the governor expressed his admiration for their service and dedication for their sacrifice in a brief ceremony at the Operational Support Airlift Facility north of Reno.
“I love attending these events,” said Sandoval, who, as the state’s commander in chief, has never missed a deployment or redeployment. “These are the men and women who have deployed to the Middle East and provided logistical services by moving ammunition and food.”
According to the National Guard, the brigade’s mission “included providing supplies and services in about a half-dozen countries throughout the Middle East. Its most high-profile mission was providing more than $500 million worth of weapons, supplies and vehicles to allied forces in Iraq through the Iraq Train and Equip Fund (ITEF).”
The brigade had its headquarters based at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, but small groups of soldiers had also deployed to eight other countries — including large groups to Iraq and Jordan — in support of the brigade.
Sandoval said seeing the returning men and women humbles him as the state’s top military leader.
“You see the sacrifices they make for us — they come back home, and I appreciate the freedom we have,” he said.
Col. Vernon Scarborough said the brigade provided logistical support in real time.
“We provided the ammo and equipment to Iraq so they (Iraqi army) could take the fight t Isis,” Scarborough said. “The responsibilities we had were great, but there was no reason to error.”
Scarborough said Nevada’s citizen-soldiers stepped up and did an admirable job during their nine-month deployment. He noted the four R’s his soldiers performed in Kuwait and eight other countries where daytime temperatures of 130 degrees scorched the desert.
“We got the right things to the right place at the right time and in the right amount,” Scarborough noted.
The Nevada colonel said the mission was ideal for a sustainment brigade, especially with the logistical support.
Scarborough said 258 soldiers deployed to the Middle East, and the same number returned, drawing praise from Sandoval during his comments. The brigade consisted of 193 male soldiers and 65 female, while 205 guardsmen hailed from Southern Nevada and 43 from Western Nevada.
Scarborough said about 70 percent of the guardsmen never deployed before going overseas with the brigade, while other guardsmen have deployed numerous times.
With the brigade home, Scarborough, who will soon relinquish control in a planned change of ceremony, said attached members would return to their original units while others will attend either officer or noncommissioned officer training. The brigade may not be idle for long. Scarborough and military staff from the Office of the Adjutant General indicated the unit could be called up to help during the spring flooding in Northern Nevada.
Brig. Gen. William R. Burks said the brigade faced major challenges overseas.
“Their mission was the most complex sustainment mission,” he said.
Brig. Gen. Michael Hanifan, commander of the Army Guard, concurred, saying this was one of the most experienced units Nevada has mobilized, a unit he visited during their deployment. Although he discussed the mission, his thoughts turned on the present and future for the soldiers helping with flooding or assisting with wildland fire fighting during the summer.
After the ceremony which took less than an hour to complete, Staff Sgt. Greg Jennert of Dayton said it was challenging to move supplies from Kuwait to Iraq for various needs and to specific personnel such as police units and the Iraqi army.
“It’s different from what I did before,” Jennert said of his first deployment to Iraq in 2004. For this mission, though, he performed a duty outside his military training. “I was actually doing a warehouse position.”
Like other soldiers who participated in the ceremony, Jennert said he enjoyed the challenges … including the heat.
“I know that’s what I did to help out Iraq and to save our forces,” he added.