LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - Central Arkansas families are smiling a little brighter this holiday season after more than 350 Arkansas National Guardsmen returned Dec. 9 from a nine-month deployment to Southwest Asia.
The Guardsmen, assigned to 2-153 Infantry Battalion, 39th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, were deployed to support Operation Spartan Shield, an operation that builds partner capacity in the region to promote regional self-reliance and increase security among partner nations.
“We’re excited to have these Guardsmen back home in time for the holidays,” said Maj. Gen. Jonathan Stubbs, Arkansas adjutant general. “They’ve been away from their families and employers doing our nation’s vital business of helping keep the region secure and safe. I’m immensely proud of their service and sacrifice for our state and nation, and I know Arkansans are, too.”
The Guardsmen departed Arkansas Feb. 5 for their mobilization station at Fort Bliss, Texas. From there, they deployed to Southwest Asia, where they served as a security force by providing convoy and base security of U.S. elements and assets friendly to the United States. Including their train-up period, the Guardsmen were away from their families for nearly one year.
On their return trip home, the Guardsmen arrived at their demobilization station at Fort Bliss Nov. 28. They departed El Paso, Texas, and landed in Little Rock, to be reunited with their loved ones.
Families filled half an aircraft hangar at Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport as they waited for their service members to return home. After a short wait, the hangar doors opened and in marched their loved ones as families cheered. As soon as the Soldiers were dismissed from the formation, families and Guardsmen sought out their loved ones.
Joyann Bearden of Searcy said she kept in touch with her husband, Capt. Samuel Bearden, via “phone, texting, video chatting and calling as often as possible.”
To help keep their three children engaged she built a deployment wall in their home.
“We had a deployment wall where we showed a map for the kids to keep up with where their daddy was. We put pictures up and any pictures Sam could send me,” she said.