Ohio National Guard Members Return Home In December.
Members of the 37th Ohio National Guard Infantry Combat Battallion are making plans to return home next month. Members of the Brigade spent 2008 at military base camps in Kuwait. In a telephone conversation from Kuwait, Specialist Kimberly Johnson describes the desert camps as 24-7 operations.
"Each camp that we've commanded is much like running little villages. Our soldiers, our leaders, everyone of the 37th is responsible for things like housing, making sure all the soldiers are properly accomodated. They have laundry facilities, so they can wash their clothes. They obviously maintain the U-S-O facilities, and M-W-R facilities with the help of third country nationals. Grounds crews, improving, like Captain Foster was saying, he was in charge of projects. That means like we've paved four roads here at our camp since we've been here, just improving life as much as we can for the soldiers coming in and out of Iraq." Says Johnson.
Sargeant Ryan Johnson works as a paralegal at the camp helping soldiers work through any legal concerns while they're deployed. He says the year-long stint passed quickly with help from what he calls the "little comforts" from home.
"Well, it really hits you personally when you get little notes from children from grade school on who are hand-writing little cards and little letters wishing you good luck, and return home safely." Says Johnson
Johnson credits the U-S-O for its support during his time in Kuwait. He especially appreciates the phone cards that allowed him to contact his family and relatives. The unit kept busy on Thanksgiving Day, although Captain David Foster said he'd find the time to make what for him is the traditional Thanksgiving Day Five K- run....or as he calls it...the turkey trot.
"I loved the turkey trot in Columbus because there's so many people there. The first time I ran it, it was freezing rain, cold, windy, and there was still about a thousand runners out there."
Foster says in Kuwait its about 55 degrees at dawn and the track is sandy. While many of the guardsmen in Kuwait are overseas for the first time. For Foster its his second overseas deployment.
"My first deployment was to Kosovo in 2004, 2005. But, really during that time I was still a little bit immature, I was still in college, still kind of doing my own thing. This deployment, you have a little more responsibility, a little more maturity. And now you have time to actually reflect on those items.and try to grow with your family and try to grow with your loved ones during this time even though your 7,000 miles away."
For Sargeant First Class Kelly Sellers the Kuwait assignment is his first overseas deployment as a member of the guard. He says he followed the political campaigns during the year and kept in touch with his wife and two young sons.
"Its been a very difficult year to be away from them. But, I know the homecoming will be very good. so."
During the year, Sargeant John Harris has been among the most popular soldiers in the unit.
"I'm also the mail clerk for our unit, making sure they get their mail and all their care packages from their relatives and friends."
A National Guard unit from Oklahoma will take over duties performed by the Ohio guardsmen and homecoming ceremonies are planned for various units of the 37th through-out Ohio next month. Sargeant Johnson best sums up the mood.
"Can't wait to get back."
Tom Borgerding WOSU News