Florida’s air defenders return home in time for Thanksgiving

Written by  //  November 21, 2011  //  Feature Stories

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Nov. 21, 2011) – A year ago the Soldiers of a Daytona-based air defense unit were eating Thanksgiving dinner in an Army dining facility in Texas and preparing to spend the holidays without their families.

This year those Soldiers, from the Florida Army National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 265th Air Defense Artillery (ADA) Regiment, will be enjoying the holiday season with their loved ones at home.

Soldiers from the Florida Army National Guard's 1st Battalion, 265th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, gather during a welcome home ceremony in Daytona Beach, Fla., Nov. 21, 2011. Nearly 200 members of the unit returned home Nov. 20 from a year-long deployment to the National Capital Region in support of Operation Noble Eagle. The Soldiers were deployed to the Washington, D.C. area to provide ground-based air defense for the region. Photo by Master Sgt. Thomas Kielbasa

Nearly 200 members of the unit returned home this week from a year-long deployment to the National Capital Region in support of Operation Noble Eagle. The Soldiers were deployed to the Washington, D.C. area to provide ground-based air defense for the region.

“Last year at Thanksgiving we were at Ft. Bliss, Texas, and pretty far away from our families,” explained Capt. Nathan Dinger, battery commander with the 1st Battalion, 265th ADA. “We had Thanksgiving dinner in an Army (dining facility), which isn’t quite as enjoyable as being at home with your family. Everybody this year is looking forward to going home, spending time with their families, and actually taking time to cook meals.”

Dinger said some people incorrectly assume that when a National Guard unit deploys within the United States there aren’t any hardships and the missions are easy to perform.

“One thing that is misconstrued about this mission is that because it is in-country you get to see and talk to your family every day,” Dinger, who missed some important milestones in his five-year-old son’s life, said. “It’s just like any other mobilization – the ‘optempo’ is just as high and we have just as fast a pace. The reality is you don’t get to see or talk to your family every day, so you miss a lot.  My son learned how to read while I was gone.”

Dinger, who has completed two rotations to the National Capital Region for the Air Defense mission said he truly believes in the importance of continuing the National Guard participation in Operation Noble Eagle.

“This particular mission is absolutely important to the National Guard; it is absolutely important to the Washington D.C. area,” he said. “I can honestly say the Florida Army National Guard is a part of maintaining our current security in the United States.”

During a welcome home ceremony for the unit in Daytona Beach on Nov. 21, the 164th Air Defense Artillery Brigade Deputy Commander Col. Matthew Hearon praised the returning Soldiers for a mission that netted the unit nine Meritorious Service Medals, 40 Army Commendation Medals, and 37 Army Achievement Medals.

“This battalion performed extraordinarily over the past twelve months defending the skies over our Nation’s Capital,” Hearon said. “They performed every task and every mission better than it had ever been done before…I can honestly say that we have the world’s best and most experienced air defenders in this battalion. They are a remarkable outfit and I couldn’t be more proud of their performance.”

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