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Another job well done, Alpha Battery!
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They marched off on a cold, blustery late winter day, headed to a foreboding land and a dangerous mission. They came back  — exactly a year later, and on another cold, blustery, late winter day — having accomplished their mission with tremendous honor and respect.

The soldiers of Alpha Battery, 1st Battalion, 118th Field Artillery Regiment, a part of the Georgia Army National Guard’s 48th Brigade Combat Team, are now home, safe and  sound and back in the company of their loved ones.

During their 10 months in Afghanistan, the soldiers of Alpha Battery trained Afghan forces on field artillery practices. They also provided security at forward operating bases and trained and mentored the growing ranks of Afghan security forces.

And they did it with just one member of their 85-man unit getting hurt.

Many of the Alpha Battery soldiers were veterans of the unit’s rotation to Iraq — but for many others, the Operation Enduring Freedom mission to Afghanistan was their first combat deployment. In both cases, the men of Alpha Battery acquitted themselves nobly, proving their worth as citizen-soldiers.

Twenty years ago, the Army sent the 48th and its units to Fort Irwin, Calif., and the vast National Training Center, ostensibly to gear up for what was then the coming fight in Kuwait and Iraq. As the 24th Infantry Division’s “roundout” brigade, the men of the Gray Bonnet Brigade were supposed to follow their active brethren at Fort Stewart, the Army’s rapid deployment force, into harm’s way.

Instead, even after their scheduled training at NTC was over, the 48th remained in the California desert. Their mission was given to a regular Army brigade out of Fort Benning, which later became that third combat team to augment the two brigades then at Fort Stewart.

Now, the Army and the nation know just how valuable its National Guard units are. At one point in 2005, National Guard brigades made up more than 50 percent of the force in Iraq, according to the National Guard Bureau.

There are nearly 71,000 Guardsmen on active duty right now. As of Tuesday, there were more than 5,000 Guardsmen and Reservists from Georgia serving on active duty. Since 9/11, more than 320,000 Guardsmen have been called to active duty.

The National Guardsmen from across the nation have proven how invaluable they are to the defense of freedom. And now, the men and women of the 48th Brigade, including the brave men of Alpha Battery, 1/118 Field Artillery Battalion, should be able enjoy the fruits of the freedom they have so well defended.

Welcome home, and thanks for another job well done.