8 Arizona soldiers home from African deployment

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

PHOENIX -- After spending nearly a year half a world away, a team of eight Arizona Army National Guard soldiers came home to Arizona Friday morning.

The 257th Engineering Team was deployed to the Horn of Africa after completing training at Camp Atterbury, Ind. almost a year ago. It was their second deployment in the past six years.

Family, friends, and members of the Arizona Patriot Guard Riders were on hand to greet the returning soldiers when they arrived at Sky Harbor's Terminal 4.

The 257th Engineering Team's mission was to conduct well drilling operations in support of U.S. humanitarian missions and the war on terrorism in the Horn of Africa, which is the easternmost part of the African continent and includes the countries of Eritrea, Djibouti, Ethiopia and Somalia.

While they naturally missed their families, the soldiers were positive about their experience.

"It was interesting. We did a lot of good over there," said Sgt. William Davis. "It was a very good deployment."

Pfc. Timothy Arias agreed.

"It was a fantastic experience," he said.

With the motto "Always ready, always there," more than 400 Arizona National Guard soldiers and airmen are still serving on federal active duty overseas. Since Sept. 11, 2001, more than 9,300 of Arizona's sons and daughters have been called up to active service.

Operation Enduring Freedom in the Horn of Africa was launched on Oct. 2, 2002. About 2,000 servicemen and women from the U.S. and allied countries make up the Combined Joint Task Force, which is the primary military contingent assigned to the region.