Rock Hill Guard unit finishes in Afghanistan, readies for return

adys@heraldonline.comMay 10, 2013 

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The 161 soldiers of Rock Hill’s Army National Guard 178th Combat Engineers who have spent the past nine months in Afghanistan have finished their mission and are soon heading home, Army officials confirmed.

The unit has the dangerous job of clearing bombs from roads in Afghanistan, among other construction duties that included tearing down two bases as the war winds down. The unit also had a crucial role of delivering supplies and making sure convoy routes were safe.

Rock Hill and York County should be extremely proud of the 178th soldiers, said Lt. Col, Corol Dobson, the commanding officer.

“We were noted on numerous occasions for executing the standard by which the Afghan Army Engineers should develop,” Dobson said in a speech to the troops at the transfer of authority this week to another South Carolina unit, the 122nd out of Edgefield. “We took a mission that was tough, developed our own plan for accomplishing that mission, and most importantly you executed. And the execution was near flawless. All of these Prowler accomplishments will be felt in Afghanistan for years to come.”

“We were there because we were the best.”

The 178th was in charge of Task Force Prowler at Sharana Forward Operating Base in eastern Afghanistan, and cleared more than 10,000 miles of roads over 47 missions, said Lt. Brock Eastman, public affairs officer for the task force. 178th soldiers also hauled the equipment for infantry and combat units, and were a vital response unit after attacks at the Zormat Forward Operating Base.

“Over 40 missions and over 10,000 miles, I would say that is one h--- of an accomplishment,” said 1st Sgt. Johnny Beverly of Rock Hill.

Rock Hill soldiers, many who were on second or third deployments, were assigned to the most rapidly changing area in the entire country, and commanded the largest force of combat engineers in Afghanistan. The unit also trained the Afghan Army in bomb clearance and road construction.

“Our path out (of Afghanistan) is having an Afghan Army that is able to stand on its own,” said Maj. Kevin Berry, 178th Engineer Battalion executive officer.

The 178th had no casualties, but four soldiers from New York and New Mexico units attached to the 700-plus member task force were killed in bomb attacks.

The unit heads now to Fort Bliss, Texas, where soldiers will undergo days of demobilization interviews, medical testing and job-return training for civilian life. The return to the Columbia airport is expected within the next two to three weeks.

Andrew Dys •  803-329-4065

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