WILLIAMSTOWN -Almost a year to the day since its departure from the Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Airport, the 1092nd Engineer Battalion of the West Virginia National Guard on Friday set foot on state soil.
In addition to being welcomed home by hundreds of family, friends and wellwishers, state and local officials were on hand to express their gratitude.
"It was great to see you in Wisconsin. But it is even better to see you in West Virginia," said Adj. Gen. Jim Hoyer of the West Virginia National Guard to members of the 1092nd. Hoyer praised the unit for its service, noting its actions and achievements went beyond the call of duty.
Tomblin welcomes 1092nd
Lt. Col Paul Stephens told members it was an honor to serve with them.
Acting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin also thanked the soldiers and their families for their service.
"For the great work you have done, we are so, so proud of you," the governor said.
Acting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin greets members of the 1092nd at Hangar Five at the Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Airport Friday. Tomblin and West Virginia Army National Guard Adjutant General James Hoyer greeted each member of the group and thanked them for their service before they were dismissed to family. (Photo by Jeff Baughan)
In addition to Tomblin, state Sens. Donna Boley, R-Pleasants, and David Nohe, R-Wood, Wood County Commissioner Blair Couch, Assessor Rich Shaffer and Parkersburg Mayor Bob Newell attended the homecoming.
Secretary Keith Burdette of the state Department of Commerce cabinet was also at the event. Burdette's stepson was among the 1092nd members returning home.
Tomblin spoke for a only a few minutes. Aside from Hoyer and Stephens, the governor was the only official to address the crowd.
Tomblin also gave guardsmen a brief update on the state's political climate, noting former Gov. Joe Manchin, who was on hand last year to see the troops off, had been elevated to the U.S. Senate, replacing the late Robert C. Byrd. Tomblin also mentioned the retirement of former Adj. Gen. Allen Tackett, who has been replaced by Hoyer.
According to Tomblin, Manchin left Thursday night to visit troops in Afghanistan.
Tomblin also mentioned the cold, rainy skies under which the 1092nd left last year, noting Friday's unseasonably warm, sunny weather.
"West Virginia's got the sun shining for you today," he said.
The battalion's return to the state comes 361 days after it departed.
In Afghanistan the 1092nd was involved in construction, including building roads, other infrastructure and support facilities for the troops. The deployment was their second in the last decade. The guardsmen's last deployment was 2003-2004, when the unit spent a year in Iraq.
The 1092nd's homecoming won't be the last.
In about a month, 30 soldiers from the Company C, 2/104th General Support Aviation Battalion of the West Virginia Army National Guard should be home. The aviation support unit based at the Williamstown Readiness Center deployed in March a tour in Afghanistan.
The unit is part of a medical evacuation company of 12 HH-60L Blackhawk helicopters in West Virginia and Tennessee.