By MAUREEN ROSE
Gold Standard Acting Editor
The 450 Soldiers of the 19th Engineer Battalion who had been deployed to Kuwait returned over the weekend in three flights and the unit colors were uncased. The unit spent nine months supporting construction missions to build retention ponds, living facilities and protective berms in Southwest Asia.
Brig. Gen. Peggy Combs, commander of U.S. Army Cadet Command and Fort Knox, told the waiting family and friends that many prayers for the unit’s safe return had been answered. While the battalion accomplished a great deal during the time abroad, the general commented that perhaps the greatest accomplishment was more personal:
“More than 30 babies were born at Fort Knox to waiting wives while these Soldiers were deployed,” she said.
Through the coordinating efforts of the command, most of the fathers were able to digitally witness the birth of their babies through the services of Skype, which was set up when the mothers went into labor. Most were able to encourage the mothers through the labor process as well. Many fathers met their newest additions in person at the redeployment ceremony.
Although two of the returning flights landed in the wee hours of the morning, all were met by a crowd of family, friends and community members who waited in the battalion’s new complex, which was completed in the unit’s absence. The $41 million facility will be dedicated and officially opened later.
During the deployment, the Soldiers completed 130,000 manhours of work on Camps Arifjan and Buehring, building facilities worth more than $5 million. In addition, the Soldiers developed relationships with four countries as they supported other construction projects.
In Tajikstan, the engineers designed 10 projects to help the local populace, to include a bridge, water distribution system and renovations of a local hospital and school; in addition, other subject matter experts trained route clearance to support theater security route clearance.
Electricians were deployed to Jordan to correct electrical safety hazards, 200 Soldiers went to Afghanistan to provide critical engineer expertise at Bagram and the Kuwaiti Engineer Brigade was supported with joint range and other contruction projects.
For nearly two-thirds of the Soldiers, this was their first deployment.
The battalion commander, Lt. Col. John Lloyd, who returned in the third flight, addressed the crowd briefly.
“Thank you for coming out in the middle of the night,” he said. “These coming home ceremonies make it special. I am especially proud of these Soldiers and commend them for a job well done.”