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Minnesota National Guard
849th MAC's return celebrated all along Highway 12

Minnesota National Guard LITCHFIELD, Minn- For the better part of a perfect June afternoon, the combined stretches of Interstate 394 and Highway 12 connecting the Minneapolis/St Paul Airport to Litchfield became a model of small-town patriotism and an early "Welcome Home" gesture from hundreds of folks waiting to wave and cheer as the 849th Mobility Augmentation Company's convoy traveled the final leg of its journey home

"Everyone on the bus was waving back and taking pictures," said Sgt Shawn Westling, who had just completed his third deployment with the Litchfield-based unit "It was pretty awesome to see all the people take time out of their day and kids come out of schools to welcome us home"

After an 11-month tour in Afghanistan, Soldiers of the 849th Mobile Augmentation Company, 682nd Engineer Battalion, were finally reunited with the families they left behind after their convoy - which included two buses carrying the Soldiers, dozens of Patriot Guard Riders and several police, fire and emergency vehicles with sirens blazing - deposited them outside the Litchfield Civic Center, June 3

"It feels incredibly good to be back home," said Westling, who was off to pick up his two teenage daughters from school after a long embrace with his wife "I'm really looking forward to unwinding and spending time with my family after a challenging year away"

The 849th MAC's challenging year included clearing 8,000 kilometers of supply routes to ensure freedom of movement for Afghan National Security Forces and International Security Assistance Forces, providing support for the 2014 Afghan presidential elections and defeating the enemy after a suicide attack on their base left five of their own wounded

"Each Soldier standing in front of you did an amazing job," said Capt Matthew Jukkala, 849th MAC company commander, while addressing the packed Civic Center crowd "Their professionalism and expertise is what allowed us to get the job done Just know you can be proud of what they've accomplished"

June 5, 2014
by Staff Sgt Patrick Loch
Minnesota National Guard Public Affairs

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