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Welcome back! 299th returns to Belvoir after a successful deployment to Iraq

June 23, 2011

By Julia LeDoux, Special contributor to the Belvoir Eagle

“Company, dis … missed.”

Those were the words the 80 Soldiers, family and friends of the 299th Engineer Company Multi-Role Bridge had been waiting 10 months to hear.

And, hear them they did, as they were welcomed home to Fort Belvoir Monday, after their deployment to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn.

Wells Field House was decorated with signs, balloons and flags in honor of the returning Soldiers, who departed for Iraq in August.

“I’m just happy he’s home,” said Alexandra Williams, who leapt into her husband, Sgt. Christopher Williams’ arms, after the ceremony. “I’m ready to go.”

“It’s great to be home,” the sergeant said with a wide grin.

For Laura Tiso, the homecoming meant that her husband, Staff Sgt. Benjamin Tiso, will get to spend time with their now 3-month old daughter.

“He came home on a Sunday and she was born the next day,” said Laura. “He got to spend two weeks with her.”

Holly Martin, wife of 1st Lt. C.J. Martin, said the Family was looking forward to spending time together and will vacation in Florida in a couple of weeks.

“We’re excited,” she said. “We’ve got four little boys 8 and under, so I’m tired.”

Spc. Jannet Hernandez was surrounded by her Family after the ceremony.

“I’m so happy,” she said in between hugs from her loved ones.

Lt. Col. Eric Lawson, 463rd Engineer Battalion commander, said the 299th performed superbly at every task they were given, from mobilization training at four separate locations, to completing their unit validation early with laudatory comments from the training brigade commander, to their extraordinary accomplishments in the Iraqi theater.

While in Iraq, Lawson said the 299th completed 170 combat patrols, inspecting and repairing 19 theater bridges and 13 critical civilian bridges. The company also executed six major bridge pulls at Hamadi and other locations.

“The unit also completed the Herculean task of containerizing and retrograding the theater bridge park out of Iraq while simultaneously training about bridges to more than 70 Soldiers and officers from the Iraqi Army Strategic Bridge Company,” he said.

Lawson said that, historically, the 299th placed the first U.S bridge in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003 and removed the last U.S. bridge in support of Operation New Dawn May 18, 2011.

“The 299th is truly a remarkable unit that has made a significant difference in the Iraqi theater,” he said.

Lawson noted some of the Soldiers who returned home Monday were assigned to the 299th back in 2003 when the first bridge was placed.

“As a commander, I could not be prouder of their professionalism and accomplishments this past year,” he continued. “These Soldiers answered the call of duty, made personal sacrifices to honor their commitment to serve our great nation and, together, forged a strong team that overcame adversity, met every challenge head-on with determination and delivered more than was thought possible or expected.”

Lawson also said he was humbled by the strength, commitment, support and resiliency of the Soldiers’ Families throughout the deployment.

“Know that your encouragement, caring and support for our deployed Soldiers played an instrumental role in the Soldiers of the 299the remaining focused on their mission and performing to such a high standard,” he told Family members.

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