BANGOR, Maine — The first of 152 Brewer-based soldiers deployed in Afghanistan for the past year returned home Sunday, and the remaining members of Bravo Company, 3rd Battalion, 172nd Mountain Infantry are scheduled to be home in the coming weeks.
“They should all be home by the first week of December,” Lt. Col. James “Jim” Campbell, executive officer for the 52nd Troop Command of the Maine Army National Guard, said Sunday afternoon.
The infantrymen have spent the last year “patrolling the border with Pakistan to prevent Taliban or other anti-Afghan militia from coming into Afghanistan,” he said. “People need to know that these guys have done a fantastic job. They have really accomplished their mission.”
Sgt. Maj. Scott Doyon of Clinton was the first from the unit to return home. He was first sergeant of the 172nd until he got to Afghanistan and was promoted to the brigade staff.
The second he was on the ground at Bangor International Airport, he called his wife, Sara Doyon, who was standing in the airport terminal with his brother Jeff Doyon, and father and stepmother, Donny and Debbie Doyon.
“I’ll see you in a few minutes,” she was heard saying, a smile stretched across her face. “Love you, too.”
The soldier planted a long kiss on his wife’s lips before greeting his family and a small group of Army National Guard soldiers gathered to welcome him home along with Army veteran Charles “Dusty” Fisher, a Maine Troop Greeter who served five years in the Maine Legislature.
“Holy smokes, you all came out,” was Doyon’s reaction to seeing his family and fellow soldiers.
He said later that he was very happy to be home.
“It feels great — this is my third deployment,” Doyon said. “Tonight, I’m going out to eat with my family at Texas Roadhouse, which is my favorite restaurant. Tomorrow, I’m going to O’Connors to get a new truck, and in a week or so I’m going to take my wife to Vegas.”
A group of 15 Bravo Company soldiers are returning home today, and the rest of the unit will leave Afghanistan a few days after Thanksgiving and are scheduled to arrive at BIA in small groups in the next couple weeks, Campbell said.
“I can’t even begin to describe to you how happy I am that they are all returning home,” he said.
Command Sgt. Maj. Terry Harris, the senior enlisted solider for the Maine Army National Guard, said the Maine soldiers in Afghanistan are in one of the most dangerous places on earth.
“It was a very difficult mission for them and for all to come home safe is amazing,” he said, adding the unit did suffer some injuries. “This is a great day.”
Four 172nd soldiers were injured in Afghanistan while protecting its borders, one seriously enough that he returned to the United States in May so he could be treated at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.
Spc. Andrew Chic, 23, of Hampden was injured when the mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicle, or MRAP, he was the gunner on was hit by enemy fire.
“A rocket-propelled grenade went right through the front windshield,” Campbell said. “They were on a mail run, and the back of the vehicle was loaded with packages and mail. The packages from home absorbed the impact of the grenade” and lessened Chic’s injuries.
Chic suffered wounds to his face and neck but is back on duty and is working at the mobility center, Campbell said. Two others in Chic’s MRAP vehicle and another soldier injured at another time were treated for their injuries in Afghanistan, he said.
The 172nd’s job was to protect the border around their base, and “they were so successful, they expanded the area up to 25 kilometers out” and provided residents with a high level of security, which allowed for a number of development projects, Campbell said.
Bravo Company soldiers had a tough job defending the dangerous border and were “getting into gunfights all the time,” he said. “I don’t know if this is PC, but they killed a lot of bad guys.
“It’s a really bad place, one of the worst places in the world, and they were able to accomplish this mission and bring everybody home,” Campbell, a former commander for the unit, said proudly. “It’s really phenomenal.
“The people in Maine should feel really proud that their infantry company — the only one in Maine — lived up to the tradition of great service,” he said.
The unit’s Freedom Salute ceremony, which is their formal welcome home, is scheduled for Jan. 7, 2011, at the Collins Center at the University of Maine.