Conn. Air and Army Guard welcomed home, receive medals

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Josh Mead
  • Public Affairs, 103rd Airlift Wing
Friends and family gathered August 16 at the William A. O'Neil Armory in Hartford for the Freedom Salute Ceremony to pay homage and congratulate three units, the 103rd Air Control Squadron based out of Orange and the Groton based 1109th Aviation Classification Repair Activity Depot (AVCRAD) and Detachment 2, Company I from the 185th Aviation Regiment that had returned home after supporting overseas contingency operations in Southwest Asia. 

The units were greeted by Governor M. Jodi Rell, the Office of the State Treasurer, Ms. Denise Nappier, the State Comptroller, Ms. Nancy Wyman, the State Attorney General, Mr. Richard Blumenthal and The Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. Thaddeus Martin. 

"It is my honor and privilege to formally welcome home these exceptional guardsmen who so readily responded to their nation's call," said Maj. Gen. Thaddeus Martin, the adjutant general, Conn. National Guard. 

The deployment was the sixth since Sept. 11 for the 103rd ACS. Overseas, they were responsible for controlling more than 277,000 square miles of coalition airspace over Iraq. They handled 3700 close air support missions, 1800 air refueling and 14,000 intelligence and surveillance sorties. 

The 185th Aviation Regiment, Detachment 2, Company I is home to the C-23 Sherpa, an Army light cargo aircraft. Since Sept. 11, the detachment has deployed three times, providing logistics support to troops in the field, airlift for over 20,000 soldiers and 5 million pounds of cargo, and logged 8,000 flying hours. 

"It's nice that people are looking out for us. It feels great that people were supporting and standing behind us," said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Michael Kermode, detachment commander, Detachment 2, Company I, 185th Aviation Regiment, following the welcome home ceremony. 

The 1109th AVCRAD returned home from their second deployment since Sept. 11 where they worked with eight army aviation brigades, keeping more than a thousand helicopters flying and supporting troops. The AVCRAD is a senior level aviation repair and logistics unit that works directly for Aviation and Missile Command and Army Material Command. 

"It is humbling to us to have Governor Rell be such a strong presence at the functions. Her support demonstrates to us and our families that the state of Connecticut is behind us and will always do whatever is necessary to assist us," said Col. Thomas Boland, commander, 1109th AVCRAD. 

"Each unit has distinguished itself representing the very best of Connecticut in the finest tradition of our citizen soldier or airman," said Governor M. Jodi Rell. 

In addition to welcoming troops back into the United States, the Governor and The Adjutant General presented the three units with guidon streamers for their roles in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. 

The 103rd ACS received the Iraqi Campaign Medal, the National Defense Medal, and the Armed Forces Reserve Medal with M device, standing for mobilization. They also received the Air Force Expeditionary Service Ribbon with Gold Borders for supporting combat operations and a Meritorious Unit Award. 

The 1109th AVCRAD and Det. 2, Co. I, 185th Aviation Regiment received the Iraqi Campaign Medal, The National Defense Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, and the Armed Forces Reserve Medal with M device. The 1109th AVCRAD also received the Afghan Campaign Medal. 

Referring to a pre-deployment address, Governor Rell said, "I asked you to remember that you were leaving with our blessing and best wishes, and our prayers. And I hope, in some way, that was comforting during your long time away from home. I told you to come back to us safely and as soon as you could. And, of course, you've done exactly that. And I asked you to do your job well, and you said to me, 'we would'-- and so you have. So let me say again, welcome home. You have made us all very proud."