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Navy Customs Battalion Papa Returns Home

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS060330-01
Release Date: 3/30/2006 8:36:00 AM


By Journalist 1st Class Carla Morton, Fleet Public Affairs Center Atlantic

NORFOLK, Va. (NNS) -- About 400 Mobilized Reservists of Naval Expeditionary Logistics Support Force (NAVELSF) Forward Group Papa returned to Norfolk March 29 from a nearly seven-month deployment after providing support for the Department of Defense’s customs inspection mission in Iraq and Kuwait in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Their mission was to ensure returning service members and equipment carried no unwanted plants, pests or diseases to American shores.

NAVELSF Commander, Rear Adm. Hank Tomlin was on hand to welcome the Sailors home.

“They’ve been incredibly successful in what would be considered a non-traditional Navy mission,” said Tomlin. “It’s a great honor to be able to lead a group of Sailors like this. They’re building an incredible reputation for the Navy.”

Forward Papa’s commanding officer (CO), Cmdr. Alan Reyes, said that all members of Forward Group Papa led to a successful deployment and return.

“The best experience was taking 400 Sailors and having them get to know each other and work together to do the kind of work that we did,” said Reyes. “That kind of camaraderie is what makes the Navy so special, and I’m just proud to be serving with these Sailors.”

For most of the Sailors, the journey wasn’t over just yet, since they had to travel to other states and back to their civilian lives. The battalion is comprised of selected and individual ready reserves from 48 states and Puerto Rico. They agreed that it was good to be back in the United States and looked forward to seeing their families when they finally make it home.

“I miss my family and my church family, and it’s a great feeling to finally be home,” said Culinary Specialist 2nd Class Anthony Sofield. “Meeting a lot of people I never met before and serving with them was the greatest experience I felt.”

Forward Group Papa was mobilized in August 2005 and deployed in September 2005. While they were in theater, they conducted personnel inspections, baggage inspections, as well as inspections of vehicles, boats and equipment.

Forward Papa was relieved by Navy Customs Battalion Quebec, made up of Sailors mobilized from 106 Navy Reserve operational support centers in 42 U.S. states and two territories.

NAVELSF exists to provide services to the fleet, including a wide range of supply and transportation capabilities, crisis response, and humanitarian and combat service support missions. There are more than 4,000 Reservists whom NAVELSF can call upon to accomplish these missions.

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