713th Eng. Co., Indiana ANG returns from tour in Afghanistan
Ashley M. Alameda,
DoMaD Public Affairs:
Almost 90 Soldiers from the 713th Engineer Company arrived at Fort Bliss this week, returning from a tour in Afghanistan. The Indiana Army National Guard unit was split into two groups with the first element returning very early in the morning Sept. 15, and the second element Sept. 17.
The company spent more than 10 months in Kandahar province conducting route and area clearance missions after a six-week pre-deployment train-up at Fort Bliss and McGregor Range Base Camp. The unit will remain at Fort Bliss for eight to 14 days to process its personnel’s demobilization paperwork before returning home to Valparaiso, Ind.
In attendance to welcome home the unit was the adjutant general for the Indiana National Guard, Maj. Gen. Martin R. Umbarger, who met their arrival flight Sept. 17. The assistant adjutant general, Brig. Gen. Michael J. Osburn attended both arrivals. Umbarger, at the end of his welcoming brief to the company, presented each Soldier a coin, saying that he believes each of them deserved it, “and it’s my honor to present it to you.”
Company commander Capt. Cecil W. Pendleton III was also proud of the company for accomplishing their missions, one of which included a route and area clearance for a district center for the Afghan nationals. He commended his Soldiers for clearing a road that had not been used in four years. The unit also assisted with forward operating base closures and unit movement procedures.
Pendleton reflected on the unit’s involvement in three division-level operations, providing route clearance for maneuver units to go into uncharted areas.
“Quite an undertaking for a little Sapper company,” he said.
Unfortunately, not all in the unit made it home from Afghanistan. In early January, the company lost four Soldiers to improvised explosive devices. In June, another IED strike took the life of an NCO who was attached to the company. In July, two more Soldiers were lost to small-arms fire during an ambush.
Pendleton said solemnly, the incidents “made for a very long, hard year, but we learned lessons.” He spoke of the response time and reaction of his company when other catastrophic events arose.
“When 2nd Platoon was involved in an IED strike on January 6th, four of the five men in the truck were killed,” he said. “One survived but had very serious injuries. The medic and the first to respond were able to stabilize him and get him out of there despite the chaos, which is a huge testament to the platoon, Soldiers and the company’s focus on each other.”
Pendleton also noted that 1st Platoon heard of the attack, responded quickly and were instrumental in the recovery. With each attack the company improved; it was even called upon when other units were in need of a hasty recovery.
Pendelton’s gratitude then turned to the ones left behind. From the rear detachment command and family readiness group, all the way up to the Indiana National Guard command, he thanked them for their support and responsiveness to the company’s needs.
“We were dealing with our battle, and there was no concern with what was happening in the rear because they had it.”
He praised his wife, first-time FRG leader Rachel Pendleton, by saying she was phenomenal, kept good communication with the families and offered support to the families who lost their loved ones. He was proud that she represented the FRG and the company positively.
When asked what he is going to do first when he gets home he answered, “I’m going to hug my wife … and get some good Mexican food.”
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