HARTFORD, Wis. --
Approximately 35 members of the Wisconsin National Guard's 82nd Agribusiness Development Team enjoyed a warm welcome in Hartford, Wis., Tuesday (Sept. 11), a little sooner and with different experiences than originally planned.
"I gotta tell ya, this crew is the best of the best that the Wisconsin National Guard, the United States Army and United States Air Force has to offer, bar none," a cheerful Col. Darrel Feucht, 82nd ADT commander, told families and friends during a homecoming ceremony at VFW Post 8834. "We had a mission, the mission changed and we had to go some other place. We stepped up to the plate and the Bucky Badger patch instantly became an icon in Kabul for everything we did there."
The 82nd ADT left Wisconsin in February and took over the agribusiness mission in Kunar Province, Afghanistan in April. In May the unit was remissioned, with the agribusiness specialists becoming part of the Provincial Reconstruction Team Kunar and the remainder of the 82nd ADT taking on new missions - principally security or quick-reaction force - in Kabul, Afghanistan.
"This team did fabulous," he said.
Feucht was involved in commanders' emergency relief projects such as schools, bridges and sports complexes in the Kabul area, which boasts a population of around 5 million.
1st Lt. Stephen Montgomery of the Wisconsin Air National Guard's 115th Fighter Wing deployed as the public affairs officer for the 82nd ADT, but after the unit was remissioned in May he became a deputy force protection officer in Kabul.
"It was phenomenal," he said of the new experience. "I couldn't imagine doing this in the Air Force in a million years. It was a lot of fun and broadened my professional experience."
Brig. Gen. Scott Legwold, Wisconsin National Guard Joint Staff director, thanked community and legislative leaders, as well as family members, for their support of deployed service members.
"Soldiers and Airmen of the 82nd ADT, thank you for what you did being flexible and accomplishing a very difficult mission in a very difficult place," Legwold said.
Gov. Scott Walker also thanked family members, acknowledging that welcome home ceremonies are always exciting. On the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks, he said the ceremony was even more meaningful.
"Eleven years ago, probably a fair number of you right here today may very well have had your first thoughts about joining the United States armed forces in the aftermath of 9/11," Walker said. "Since that date 11 years ago more than 30,000 men and women have been deployed from Wisconsin. You've served us proud. Today we remember all those who served - particularly we remember the more than 160 we've lost - and we're thankful that you all came back safe and sound, in good mind and good spirit.
"We're proud of you," Walker continued. "We appreciate the service you provide for your community, your state and, most importantly, your country."
Mary Sovota of Franklin, Wis., was among a group waiting to greet Spc. Kimberly Flock, a combat medic with the 82nd ADT.
"I'm so excited she's coming home - she'll be here for her birthday," Sovota said. "She is as excited as we are. She's been looking forward to beer and chili tonight."
Rachel Treml of Luxemburg, Wis., was waiting to greet Sgt. Trevor Treml, a communications specialist who worked with computer and radio networks for the 82nd ADT.
"It feels good," she said of his pending arrival. "He's been contacting us every other week. He's excited."
Preferring to soak in the nearness of his family and friends, Sgt. Treml only said that he missed "everything" about Wisconsin during his deployment.
Laura Schweitzer of Manawa, Wis., quickly locked into a lengthy embrace with Staff Sgt. George Nagel, a pest control specialist with the Wisconsin Air National Guard's 128th Air Refueling Wing. Tuesday was their first meeting since their 12-year friendship developed into a more substantial relationship during the course of his six-month deployment, and the couple appeared oblivious to all else around them.
"Today is a big day," she said.
The 14 remaining 82nd ADT members still conducting the agribusiness mission in Kunar Province are expected back in Wisconsin early next year.
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