They missed family birthdays and holidays, including the Fourth of July, while they ran supplies for freedom fighters 7,800 miles from Nevada.
Now they’re coming home.
About 240 soldiers from the 17th Sustainment Brigade of the Nevada Army National Guard who were sent to the Middle East in January to help run the supply effort to defeat Islamic State militants in Iraq handed the reins Wednesday to a New York National Guard brigade.
At a ceremony at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, marking the end of the Nevada brigade’s nine-month deployment, 1st Sustainment Command’s Maj. Gen. Paul C. Hurley said it was the first National Guard unit assigned to carry out what he described as the “most difficult sustainment mission” in the Army.
The brigade’s overseas commander in Kuwait, Col. Vernon L. Scarbrough, said he “knew without doubt” from the onset that the brigade would meet and exceed performance expectations in the war zone.
“Every soldier in this room today has, in some way or fashion, made sacrifices for their deployment,” Scarbrough said in a news release on Wednesday. “Our families have also made sacrifices in order for us to deploy.
“Yet, no matter the difficulties, the team stayed focused on the mission without fail. I applaud you all here today, and your loved ones back home, for your persistence, dedication and commitment to keeping it all together, on the home front and here on the mission.”
During their tour, the Nevada brigade provided supplies and services to at least six countries.
“Its most high profile mission was providing over $500 million worth of weapons, supplies and vehicles to allied forces in Iraq through the Iraq Train and Equip Fund,” brigade spokesman Staff Sgt. Victor Joecks said.
The supplies were used to liberate Fallujah, Iraq, from Islamic State militants earlier this year and are being used in the ongoing battle against IS in Mosul.
Joecks said Nevada’s soldiers tracked more than 2,000 missions; transported over $200 million worth of ammunition weighing more than 1.5 million pounds; processed over 3 million pounds of mail; and delivered over 2 million bottles of water.
At the Nevada Army National Guard headquarters in Carson City, public affairs Sgt. 1 st Class Erick Studenicka said the state’s soldiers “are excited that the 17th Sustainment Brigade is nearly homeward bound.”
“Everyone realizes they were assigned a very difficult, Herculean mission and everyone is ecstatic that they met their challenges head on and successfully met their goals,” Studenicka said.
At the ceremony in Kuwait, authority to continue the mission was turned over to the New York National Guard’s 369th Sustainment Brigade.
Nevada’s 17th Sustainment Brigade will head to Texas in the next several days to complete its demobilization requirements before returning to Las Vegas and Reno.
Its deployment was the largest for the Nevada National Guard since the 1st Squadron, 221st Cavalry, sent about 450 Nevada soldiers to Afghanistan along with 280 Guard soldiers from other states in 2010.
Contact Keith Rogers at email@example.com or 702-383-0308. Find him on Twitter: @KeithRogers2