Hundreds welcome Sparta-based troops home from Afghanistan - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Hundreds welcome Sparta-based troops home from Afghanistan

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SPARTA, IL (KFVS) -

Approximately 130 soldiers with the Sparta-based 661st Engineer Company who served in Afghanistan for about 10 months returned home on Wednesday afternoon. The homecoming ceremony for the 661st Engineer Company in Sparta began at 3 p.m., in the Sparta High School gymnasium.

And after a few short words of praise from their commander the troops were dismissed and the celebration began.

"Just out of Afghanistan from country to country, to Texas and then to here. It's just been overwhelming," said SPEC Larry Hinds. "And it's such a good feeling to see the community come together as they did today."

Mobilized in September 2011, the unit trained for a brief time at Fort Bliss, Texas, before deploying in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. 

The 661st was divided into three different locations in Afghanistan. Soldiers conducted horizontal engineer missions within Afghanistan to include both building and repairing roads, as well as site preparation for future buildings.  They also conducted mine clearance operations and assisted in the construction of helicopter landing zones, entry control points, ammunition supply points and security points at several bases. 

The unit completed 20 construction projects.  They also provided mine clearance support for more than 425,000 square meters and repaired 14 craters along Afghan highways.  661st Soldiers trained more than 100 Afghan National Army Soldiers on various vertical, horizontal and maintenance tasks and assisted in the recovery of a crashed C-17 airplane.

Soldiers with the 661st received numerous awards for their deployment including nine Bronze Star Medals, 93 Army Commendation Medals, 34 Army Achievement Medals, 23 Combat Action Badges, one Combat Medical Badge and 159 NATO ribbons.

But, it's their welcome home banners and signs that will be forever etched in their minds.

"It's been a blast for me. We were all so anxious to get here," said PFC Anthony Risely. " We couldn't wait to get here. Going through the town and seeing everybody and the way they're supporting us. It was a good time, we couldn't believe we had that much support behind us."

The unit performed another mission that is incredible to say the least. Every soldier who deployed with the unit to Afghanistan, came home!

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