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ROMEO Sailors Return Home After Completing Customs Mission

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS070419-10
Release Date: 4/19/2007 5:35:00 PM


By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Riza Caparros, Fleet Public Affairs Center Atlantic

NORFOLK (NNS) -- Sailors from Navy Expeditionary Logistics Support Group (NAVELSG) Navy Customs Battalion ROMEO returned home April 17 and 18 after completing a seven-month deployment in the Middle East in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The 450 members of the battalion came from 106 Navy operation support centers in 42 states, including Reservists from the Navy Reserve Submarine Force.

While deployed, they served as DOD customs inspectors at sea and aerial ports of debarkation in Kuwait and Iraq, bridging the gap between Sailors serving "boots on ground" with those traditionally serving at sea.

Senior Chief Aviation Electronics Technician (AW) Anthony Macdonell, operations senior chief petty officer, said the battalion carried out its mission successfully.

"Our overall mission was to do customs pre-clearance for the passengers, vehicles, equipment and aircraft leaving the CENTCOM (U.S. Central Command) AOR (area of responsibility)," explained Macdonell. "We took on every challenge that was presented to us with pride and professionalism the whole time."

During the deployment, ROMEO conducted more than 450,000 bag inspections, processed 188,000 passenger inspections for redeployment and conducted about 20,000 civilian border inspections.

Lt. Linda Ashford, assistant company commander for ROMEO Bravo Company, added the deployment was a huge success both professionally and personally for the battalion members.

"We had the chance to meet the Soldiers fighting the fight over there," said Ashford. "We actually got to interact with those individuals and it just added something to the entire mobilization - to
look them in the eye after all the service that they had done."

Ashford also said although ROMEO was not on the front lines, they were an important part of fighting the war on terrorism.

"We delivered a quality and necessary service," Ashford said. "I hope everyone walks away remembering that they were part of the process and they are heroes, too."

A first for ROMEO during this deployment was to become the first NAVELSG customs battalion to include submariners as part of their team.

"We had about 100 Sailors from the submarine force," said Cmdr. Stewart Clarke, ROMEO's executive officer. "It was great for us because they have a lot of strong skills that we used in theater - they were very stringent with SOPs (standard operating procedures), which is crucial for customs inspectors."

Senior Chief Sonar Technician Submarines (SS) Steven Blythe, who served as ROMEO battalion's advocate, said his overall perspective of the deployment was a positive one.

"After supporting the underwater warfare community for so long, this was a very different environment than what I am used to," said Blythe. "We had a collective pool of educated, trained surface and sub personnel and
the cross-training was incredible. It was like a marriage to bring it all together."

NAVELSG is an operational group of the Navy Expeditionary Combat Command and its mission is to deliver expeditionary logistics capabilities to combatant commanders in support of the national military

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