South Portland-based airmen return from Afghanistan; 134 Guard members from Maine still deployed

Posted May 17, 2012, at 5:08 p.m.
Last modified May 17, 2012, at 6:30 p.m.

SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine — Members of the South Portland-based 243rd Engineering Installation Squadron returned home from Afghanistan on Wednesday, reducing the number of Maine National Guard members serving overseas, or soon to be overseas, to 134.

“Everybody is home safe and sound,” Maj. Larry O’Connell of the 243rd said Thursday by phone from South Portland.

The two dozen airmen from the 243rd who are now home spent six months in Afghanistan setting up communications and electronic equipment.

“We don’t use the equipment; we engineer and install it for the next units,” O’Connell said.

The Maine National Guard has 47 Air National Guard airmen deployed overseas and the Army National Guard has five in Afghanistan and 82 other preparing to go to Kuwait, Air Guard Col. Eric Lind said Thursday.

The Air Guard has 38 citizen airmen from the Bangor-based 101st Air Refueling Wing — the MAINEiacs — deployed at Al Udeid Air Force Base in Doha, Qatar, as well as six airmen in the United Arab Emirates, two in Afghanistan and one in Spain that are from the 101st, 265th and Joint Force Headquarters.

The 265th Combat Communications Squadron is from South Portland and the Joint Force Headquarters is from Augusta.

The Army National Guard has 87 members deployed overseas or soon to be overseas, with most — 82 — from the Bangor-based 126th Army National Guard medevac unit, five from the 1968th Contingency Contracting Team from Augusta and one from the 120th Regional Support Group, also from Augusta.

The 126th, known as the “Black Bears,” left Maine in February for a deployment to Kuwait and its members are currently preparing at Fort Hood, Texas, Lind said.

The men and women are trained in providing medical evacuation to injured patients using Blackhawk helicopters. The Charlie Company unit commander is Maj. Mark Stevens, a 1987 Kennebunk High School graduate.

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