779th Engineer Battalion arrives in Tallahassee

Written by  //  May 24, 2010  //  Feature Stories

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (May 24, 2010) — Family and friends of the Florida National Guard’s 779th Engineer Battalion descended on the state capital May 24, to welcome the Tallahassee-based unit home from a year-long deployment to northern Iraq. Led by a police escort and following behind dozens of Patriot Guard riders, the Soldiers ended their long journey home at the Henry W. McMillan National Guard Armory.

Friends and family welcome home members of the 779th Engineer Battalion to Tallahassee, Fla., May 24, 2010. Photo by Staff Sgt. Blair Heusdens

The 779th performed many missions overseas, including construction projects on military bases, route clearance and training and mentoring Iraqi engineers. The unit performed more than 700 missions while in country and managed to bring all Soldiers home safely. The 779th arrived at Fort Stewart, Ga., May 19 and completed outprocessing tasks before making the trip back to Tallahassee to be reunited with their families.

“I think our greatest accomplishment was our two teams that actually went out and lived with the Iraqi engineers and were teaching them to stand on their own the entire time we were there,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Jeff Topping.

Florida Governor Charlie Crist was there when the unit departed last year and welcomed the troops back, congratulating them on a successful and safe mission.

“You have no idea, as your commander-in-chief, how grateful and happy for you and all of your family members I am that every single one of you have come home,” said Crist.

Crist also praised the courage, strength and leadership of the Guardsmen, not only while deployed, but also during the many instances the Florida National Guard has responded to disasters around the state on behalf of their fellow Floridians.

“It is truly remarkable the kind of courage that each and every one of you exemplify,” said Crist.

While the Guardsmen were deployed, the unit family support group worked to keep families updated on their Soldiers overseas and provided resources and assistance while their loved ones were away. According to Shelia Downey, the unit’s family readiness group coordinator, it is important for families to have a point of contact who understands the military structure to relay information to family members in a way they can understand it.

“I really think our families have done extremely well and I think everybody’s really bonded with other families and put their best foot forward,” said Downey.