Company B coming home Thursday

Company B coming home Thursday by David Lias They're finally coming home.

After being away from loved ones and friends for over a year, and dealing with the dangers of war and the harsh climate of the Middle East, members of the Army National Guard Company B, 109th Medical Battalion based in Vermillion, are on American soil.

According to Roger Anderson, an information officer with the South Dakota National Guard, the unit will arrive at in Vermillion at approximately 11:30 p.m. Thursday, April 1, to be reunited with their families at the National Guard Armory here.

"They will be given some private time to meet with their families," Mayor Roger Kozak said, "and then at 2:30 p.m., we will depart from the armory to start a parade."

The parade route will be south down Franklin Street to Main Street. Participants will travel east on Main, and turn north, eventually arriving at Slagle Hall on The University of South Dakota campus.

"That's where Hy-Vee will be serving hot dogs and pop and potato chips," Kozak said. "People can mill around a little bit while others are still coming from wherever they are watching the parade."

At 4 p.m., a formal deactivation ceremony of the unit will begin in Slagle Auditorium.

Kozak and Gov. Mike Rounds are scheduled to speak at the festivities, which will last approximately 40 minutes.

Army Reserve also returns
Eighty-one South Dakota Army Reserve Soldiers of the 323rd Chemical Company are also expected to return to Sioux Falls today (Tuesday, March 30). The soldiers, based in Sioux Falls and Vermillion, have been in Kuwait and Iraq for the past year, deployed in February 2003 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom/Iraqi Freedom.

The 323rd Chemical Company arrived stateside on March 24 and have been processing at Fort McCoy, WI. There, they performed a variety of functions, which include personnel, finance, medical and equipment requirements, as they transition back to being Army Reserve soldiers.

A community welcoming and awards ceremony is being planned and will be announced at a later date.

Company B, 109th Medical Battalion includes seven students and staff from The University of South Dakota.

The unit is made up of doctors, nurses, physician assistants, combat medics, radiological technicians and a variety of medical support personnel who provide medical services.

The unit saw action in 1991 during the Gulf War.

The 323rd Chemical Company had up to 121 members, which included Army Reserve soldiers from other Army Reserve Commands from throughout the nation. These soldiers were released to return from Fort McCoy and will not be returning to Sioux Falls.

The 323rd Chemical Company is one of 65 units in the 96th Regional Readiness Command (RRC). Headquartered in Salt Lake City, UT, the 96th RRC commands 6,500 Army Reserve soldiers in Utah, Wyoming, Montana, Colorado, North and South Dakota.

Units in the command provide the Army with capabilities like construction of roads, airfields and buildings; truck transportation, ammunition storage and supply; vehicle maintenance and repair; hospitals, veterinary and medical care; water purification and distribution; and public affairs.

Company B received orders in early last year, and reported for federal service Feb. 24, 2003, making it the eighth South Dakota Army National Guard unit called into federal service.

The SDANG hosted an emotional activation ceremony Saturday, Feb. 22, 2003 at Slagle Auditorium for Company B.

The ceremonies planned for this Thursday are sure to tug at the heart strings, too. But citizens will be feeling joy instead of a sense of loss.

Vermillion's soldiers are coming home.

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