Darkened storm clouds hovered over everyone who attended the homecoming for Tennessee Army National Guard’s 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment, Troop B, on Saturday.
However, the rain in Jefferson City stayed away, and the ceremony continued on without a hitch. It was a metaphor for the unit’s entire 10-month deployment to Poland for a security mission.
“We had great weather. This was a beautiful day to do this,” said Capt. Normand Lavoie, troop commander.
Troop B was part of a Tennessee contingent which deployed 850 soldiers for an enhanced security presence in Poland. Training for the mission started at Bemowo Piskeie Training Area.
“We wanted to show our NATO partners how serious we are about protecting Poland’s freedoms from all of their enemies who border them,” Lavoie said.
As the weather back home in Tennessee stayed perfect, so did Troop B’s mission. In an environment where anything and everything could go wrong at a moment’s notice, no casualties nor fatalities were reported during the deployment.
“We’ve got a lot of strong (non-commissioned officers) who know what they’re doing,” Sergeant First Class Jonathan Seals said. “I’ve been in for 17 years, and I recruited at least five of the guys in this unit.”
Lavoie said discipline among its leadership was a major factor in what is generally an abnormal event.
“We had young NCOs leading (the unit) making sure (the rest of the unit) wasn’t doing anything they weren’t supposed to be doing,” he said. “Everything went in our favor this time. It was easy to go home after that.”
Three babies were born during Troop B’s deployment, and Seals said his unit made arrangements to unite these new fathers with their children.
“The new fathers got 10 days off to meet their kids,” he said.
Though the soldiers were nearly 5,000 miles away from their families, modern technology has made keeping in touch much easier.
“We had Wi-Fi in our barracks, so we could connect with our families through face time and phone calls,” said Seals, a Jefferson City native. “When I came in, we didn’t have any of those things.
“The technology is so much better.”
Troop B had a great deal of support from their families in the form of care packages, including Christmas cards and food items.
“The families did their part. They sent care packages to us, and we knew we weren’t forgotten out there,” Lavoie said.
“There was a constant showing of love from Tennessee. No one can say they starved out there.”
Lavoie said he and his NCOs consistently worked to keep their charges from becoming homesick, at least as much as possible.
“We had a pretty rigorous training schedule,” he said. “We never really succeeded at not making them look toward home. We kept them busy as much as we could.”