SC National Guard soldiers return from Afghanistan

jwilkinson@thestate.comDecember 16, 2013 

More than 150 South Carolina National Guard Soldiers returned from Afghanistan on Monday in a ceremony held at Columbia Metropolitan Airport.

The unit mobilized in February and deployed to Afghanistan after a month of training in Texas.

During their deployment, the 122nd Engineers supported route clearance missions and conducted construction projects in and around eastern and northern Afghanistan, according to a release. They also assisted in training Afghan National Army engineers.

The engineers also disassembled no longer needed bases, preparing for the withdrawal of U.S. combat forces next year.

“The 122nd Engineers did an outstanding job during this critical time in Afghanistan, as military forces are drawing down and shifting their areas of operations,” Maj. Gen. Robert E. Livingston Jr., South Carolina’s Adjutant General, said.

Livingston noted that the soldiers completed more than 400 route clearance operations, which means clearing roads of roadside bombs.

About 17,000 S.C. National Guard soldiers and airmen have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The Guard has about 12,000 members – so some have gone on more than one overseas tour since the terrorist attacks.

Five S.C. Guard members were killed in Iraq; 11 in Afghanistan. In all, 64 members of the U.S. military with S.C. ties have died in Iraq; 47 have died in Afghanistan

Another 150 S.C. National Guard members are expected to return from Afghanistan to the Palmetto State over the holidays. That leaves about 400 S.C. National Guard soldiers and airmen in Afghanistan, but all should be home by the end of 2014 – the deadline for U.S. troop withdrawal from the region.

Gov. Nikki Haley’s husband, Michael Haley, and more than 40 other members of a Guard agriculture-training unit were welcomed home last week. Haley was the first spouse of a sitting governor to deploy to a combat zone with the National Guard, according to military groups.

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