FITCHBURG, Mass. – It was a pleasant welcoming for many, as Soldiers of the Massachusetts Army National Guard greeted fellow Soldiers of the 182nd Engineers (SAPPER ) as they arrived at the Holiday Inn here , dressed in civilian attire for a deployment cycle support briefing, Jan. 12, 2013.
Just a few months earlier, these men and women were stationed in Afghanistan, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Their mission was route clearance that included the dangerous operation of removing unexploded ordinance (UXO) and improvised explosive devices (IED) from routes traveled by Coalition Forces.
Despite being engaged five times in small arms fire, they were successful in clearing more than thirty five thousand kilometers of road, removing almost a hundred IEDs and fifteen pieces of UXO. Undoubtedly, these Soldiers saved countless lives through their successful completion of their mission, Nov. 9, 2012.
Friends and family crowded the halls and tables in support of their recently returned loved ones from Afghanistan, and patiently waited for information regarding the weekend’s activities. The weekend was unlike any other for the Soldiers of the 182nd because the focus was not to prepare them for deployment, rather, prepare them for life back home.
It’s no secret that many Soldiers face unique challenges returning from service overseas, some may face challenges with employment, finances or education, while others may face more personal challenges at home.
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is dedicated to curbing many of the challenges Soldiers face by providing extensive networks, resources and volunteer services to support them through their transition. Attorney General Martha Coakley introduced the diverse benefits and resources available to Soldiers and their families while also, emphasized the extensive network of support that Massachusetts offers.
Many organizations staffed tables as Soldiers met with each representative to discuss their benefits. Organizations included the Judge Advocate General corps, the Small Business Association, Disabled American Veterans, American Legion, American Red Cross, and many more. Services offered to veterans include everything from legal and counseling services to acupuncture therapy.
The Massachusetts Army National Guard has assigned Soldiers with the responsibility of transitioning their fellow Soldiers through deployment cycles. Their mission is to insure no one is left behind and that every Soldier has access to their benefits and services.
Sgt. 1st Class Jeffery Ring, chief operations noncommissioned officer for the Deployment Cycle Support Team, is tasked with insuring the smooth transition for Soldiers and is dedicated to connecting veterans with their benefits and services. “The Post Deployment Re-integration Program is a Department of Defense Initiative. This weekend Soldiers will learn more about the Yellow Ribbon Program, Tri-care and other benefits,” said Ring. “I’ve got the best job in the world.”
“The focus is with the family and it’s great to see Soldiers taking advantage of these services. Having the Attorney General and the Adjutant General in attendance reinforces the weight and importance of this service,” said Major Sobutka, state transition assurance officer.Despite the stress of integrating with the civilian workforce after recently returning from combat in Afghanistan, these Soldiers have proven their strength and commitment to service entrusting fellow Soldiers, family members and volunteers with supporting them through their transition.