Governor welcomes Maryland National Guard home from Middle East deployment
By DONOVAN CONAWAY | The Capital, | Published: January 16, 2020
(Tribune News Service) — Gov. Larry Hogan and Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford welcomed 150 soldiers from the Army National Guard’s 244th vertical construction company Wednesday after being deployed for almost one year to the Middle East in support of Operation Spartan Shield.
Maj. Gen. Timothy E. Gowen, adjutant general for Maryland, and other senior officials of the Maryland National Guard joined the governor at BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport to welcome the soldiers.
The 244th Vertical Construction Company completed multiple large scale, high-priority projects including substantial upgrades to a patriot energy-efficient barracks village.
“While working on up to 25 projects at a time, the 244th Vertical Construction Company surprised many with their ingenuity and dedication to completing projects,” said Maj. Kurt Rauschenburg, director of public affairs for the Maryland National Guard.
Many soldiers deboarded the plane with smiles and relief.
Raissa Mbolo exited the plane with a Teddy bear in hand that was of great significance to her.
“It was a gift from my husband when I was in Afghanistan,” said Mbolo. “He sent it to me, and it kept me company and gave me hope, so I held on to it. I didn’t send it home; they were telling me to send it home.”
When asked how it feels to be home, Mbolo said “It feels amazing, we all been expecting this since we left.”
Mbolo is a Silver Spring resident and will be welcomed home by her parents, friends and husband.
“It is great to be done, (deployment) went be really fast. I didn’t expect that,” she said.
The 244th vertical construction company was deployed for exactly 320 days.
“They have been deployed for over 300 days and protecting our freedoms, so I just want to thank them,” Rutherford said. “They are making sure we are safe here in America. These soldiers are Marylanders that we can be very proud, and it is important that we are here to welcome them home."
Sgt. Jedidiah Jones, a resident of Annapolis, arrived home Wednesday and said, “It’s amazing and good to be home, that really sums it up.” He added, "I’m glad (Gov. Hogan and Lt. Gov. Rutherford) are here to show their support for us."
Jones is most excited to “enjoy everything there is about being home.”
Earlier Wednesday, Hogan announced legislation to expand Maryland National Guard state tuition assistance reimbursement program, recognize occupational licenses earned by members of the military, their spouses, and veterans earned in other states and fully exempt military retirement tax.
“These guys don’t even know about it, they just got off the plane, but I wanted to end the day by thanking them,” said Hogan. “It’s the least we can do, they are out working hard and we have the easy jobs sitting behind desks. But, I just wanted to be able to shake their hands and I know everybody else in Maryland wish they had the opportunity to do so. I am just standing in for the rest of the folks that would love to shake their hands.”
Hogan and Rutherford shook the hands of all 150 soldiers that exited the plane.
“The Hogan-Rutherford administration remains fully committed to supporting our active duty and retired military personnel and their families," Rutherford said.