BISMARCK, ND — Almost a year after the community hosted a send-off in their honor, more than 90 Soldiers with the North Dakota National Guard
’s 818th Engineer Company (Sapper) were united with family and friends when they arrived home to North Dakota today.
The Soldiers deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom as part of Task Force War Hammer from June 2012 to March 2013. They served as combat engineers, clearing routes of improvised explosive devices to protect coalition forces, ensuring safe movement and mission accomplishment.
“Today, we proudly welcome the members of the 818th Engineer Company back home to the state they have so honorably represented and served this past year in Afghanistan,” said Gov. Jack Dalrymple, who welcomed the Soldiers home as they stepped off the plane. “They and their families have sacrificed so much on our behalf and we will always be grateful for their outstanding service. Sadly, two members of the 818th did not return today. We will never forget Sgt. 1st Class Darren Linde and Spc. Tyler Orgaard for their incredible service and ultimate sacrifice, or their families who continue to mourn the loss of their loved ones.”
Linde and Orgaard were killed in action during a mission on Dec. 3, and Spc. Ian Placek was wounded in the attack and recently returned to Bismarck to continue his recovery.
“I am honored to welcome you back to North Dakota and proud of the accomplishments you’ve made during your deployment. Each of you shares a bond that will unite you through the experiences and memories you’ve shared,” said Maj. Gen. David Sprynczynatyk, North Dakota adjutant general, who greeted the soldiers a week ago when they first landed on U.S. soil and then again today. “I know today comes with mixed emotions, as you feel the absence of two of your brothers. Just as you did on your missions, continue to carry their memory and legacy with you. Honor their service and sacrifice with how you continue to live your lives.”
While deployed, the 818th supported three U.S. Marine Corps battalions, conducted route clearance operations across three regional commands, conducted 201 patrols, cleared 12,165 kilometers of road, and neutralized 30 improvised explosive devices, ensuring safe passage for Coalition Forces and local nationals. In addition, the Soldiers were called upon numerous times by the Marine Corp Commands operating in Helmend Province to be their primary Route Clearance element over any other company.
Capt. Robert Bohl, of Flasher, N.D., commands the unit, which is based in Williston with a detachment in Hazen. “I am most proud of our Soldiers and leadership. Their hard work and dedication made my job easy. I’m very happy to see my Soldiers reunite with their family members,” he said.
Sgt. Maj. Rashad Schaffner, of Dawson, N.D., serves as the unit’s senior enlisted leader. Nearly half of the Soldiers in the unit had previously deployed. A third volunteered to join the unit specifically to serve on the Afghanistan deployment. “I am really excited to be home. I am proud of all our Soldiers, especially our leaders,” he said.
A formal welcome home ceremony, called a Freedom Salute, will take place in approximately three months to honor the Guardsmen and their families.
Since the 2001 terrorist attacks on America, the North Dakota National Guard has mobilized more than 3,900 Soldiers and about 2,400 Airmen in support of the Global War on Terrorism. About 70 percent of all members serving today have joined since that time. Currently, more than 50 North Dakota Guardsmen are serving overseas while more than 4,000 remain in the state for emergency response and national defense. For every 10,000 citizens in North Dakota, 65 serve in the North Dakota National Guard, a rate that’s more than four times the national average.
Photos: Additional photos of the Soldiers’ arrival will be uploaded to Flickr set: “818th Engrs return to N.D.”