Lt. Col. Todd Grigsby searched for words to explain the feelings he had as he and other members of the Alabama Army National Guard’s 115th Signal Battalion walked off an airplane to the cheers of more than 500 friends and family members at Huntsville International Airport on Oct. 31.
“Seeing all those people, some friends and family and others who were just there to show their support, welcoming us home, it was a feeling that is hard to explain,” said Grigsby, commander of the 115th Signal Battalion, which is headquartered in Florence. “It was an awesome feeling and a day I’ll never forget and I know none of our soldiers will either.”
The 500-plus members of the 115th Signal Battalion spent a year in Afghanistan providing communications for soldiers in that country.
The group’s deployment and safe return was selected as the No. 3 story of 2012 by the TimesDaily staff.
This was the second deployment for the battalion in the past seven years. In 2004, the unit was deployed to Iraq.
The battalion includes A Company in Florence, B Company in Sheffield and Haleyville, and C Company in Huntsville.
“I didn’t go to Iraq, but being in Afghanistan was an experience that we’ll never forget,” said Staff Sgt. Chad Carruth, of Sheffield.
Carruth, a member of C Company, said everybody did their job.
“There were new missions coming up, almost daily,” Carruth said. “We were stretched thin and stretched more, but we did what was asked of us.
“It was multi-tasking at it best. Everybody was wearing two and three different hats.”
Grigsby said the battalion exceeded all expectations of the mission.
“Once we got into the country our mission changed,” Grigsby said. “We had to adapt and learn really quick what was going on.”
He said a lot of the change was due to the U.S. starting to remove troops from Afghanistan.
“We ended up doing a mission that normally more than one battalion would have been doing,” Grigsby said. “But because of the draw down (of troops) we were required to do more.
“Our mission was expanded. We had to cover that void left by those troops being withdrawn. We did what we had to do. Everything ran smoothly and we all came home.”
Carruth said he often thinks about the year in Afghanistan.
“A few weeks ago, I was going somewhere with my family and I got to thinking how it was just a couple of months earlier I was in a combat zone in the desert,” Carruth said. “It made me appreciate being home. We’re all glad to be home.”
Tom Smith can be reached at 256-740-5757 or tom.smith@TimesDaily.com.