AUGUSTA, Maine — The Maine Army National Guard’s 133rd Engineer Battalion is back on U.S. soil after completing its recent deployment to Afghanistan, according to Gov. Paul LePage and guard sources.
“We are happy to report that the 133rd Engineers are safely back in the United States of America!,” the Maine Army Guard Facebook page states. “Brig. Gen. James Campbell welcomed them back as soon as they touched down [Saturday] afternoon. Their homecoming to the state of Maine will be announced when details are available.”
The unit is at Fort Dix, Maj. Josh Jacques, deputy public information officer for the 10th Mountain Division in Afghanistan said Tuesday. The 133rd served as part of the 10th in Afghanistan.
Fort Dix is the common name for the McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst base, located 16 miles south of Trenton, New Jersey.
Sgt. 1st Class Pete Morrison, spokesman for the Maine National Guard, said Tuesday the unit would return to Maine sometime between June 30 and July 4.
LePage said Tuesday that he is very happy that the Maine unit has returned stateside.
“Ann and I are pleased to see that each and every member of the 133rd has returned safe and sound,” LePage said. “How our state treats our service members is a direct reflection of the values we hold. Families and other soldiers watch closely how we honor our returning soldiers. Welcoming you home celebrates how much we value your service and how thankful we are for your sacrifice.
“We would also like to extend my sincerest thank you to your families,” he said. “We know that when your loved ones are serving, it can be very challenging to keep things running smoothly at home. You have made tremendous sacrifices on behalf of all of us, and we are thankful to every one of you. The members of the 133rd have made our state and our nation very proud. As you integrate back into your civilian lives, please know your communities and your state are there to support you.”
A total of 178 members of the 133rd left on its third overseas deployment in August 2013 and served in Afghanistan working to downsize and consolidate the bases there as the United States prepares to withdraw its remaining military forces from the country.
The group included Sgt. Ryan Kelly of Lewiston and Sgt. Dana Gross of Levant, whose “flat daddy” images were carried to the Brad Paisley concert in Bangor and were the subject of a search by the superstar.
Campbell joined LePage on May 27 for a Q&A where both explained that the change was likely to go forward but it was not a done deal. They also stressed how the change would benefit the state in the long run.
The change would affect guard personnel from all over the state. The 133rd is made up of soldiers from the 136th Engineering Company in Skowhegan and Lewiston, 185th Engineering Support Company from Caribou, 251st Engineering Company SAPPER of Norway, the Forward Support Company in Portland, Headquarters Support Company, the 262nd Engineering Company based in Belfast and Westbrook, and the 1035th Survey and Design Team of Gardiner.
The 133rd has roughly 560 soldiers.
The Maine soldiers who were deployed overseas are part of the Headquarters Company, Forward Support Company and the 1035th, Maj. Michael Steinbuchel, spokesman for the state’s Army and Air Guard has said.
By noontime Tuesday, 916 people had liked the Maine Army Guard’s facebook post about the return of the 133rd, 279 had shared the post and 131 people had left comments welcoming the unit home.