By MARK NEWMAN
Courier staff writer
---- — OTTUMWA --- The city's soldiers are back in the United States for Thanksgiving; soon, they'll be home.
"They're in Texas now," said Iowa National Guard spokesman Col. Greg Hapgood. "They'll fly into Des Moines on Saturday, then be bused to Ottumwa from there."
There will be a community homecoming ceremony for the 833rd at 3 p.m. Saturday at Evans Middle School in the gym, 812 Chester Ave.
A Guard press release says the public is welcome and encouraged to attend the ceremony.
Approximately 100 soldiers were mobilized from the 833rd Engineer Company (formerly known as Company B, 224th Engineer Battalion) as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.
After reporting to their mobilization station at Fort Bliss, Texas for additional training in January, the unit reported to Afghanistan.
Hapgood called the homecoming "very good news."
During their deployment, the Ottumwa-based company went out on more than 200 route clearance missions, cleared about 7,500 miles of Afghan roads; they found --- and cleared --- more than 75 percent of the explosives found along those roadways.
They were also assisting their Afghan allies who, with their help, were able to conduct eliminate more than 70 improvised explosive devices, and capture multiple hidden weapon stores in Afghanistan.
According to Hapgood, the 833rd Engineer Company's job was to "increase the combat effectiveness of United States and coalition forces" by removing physical obstacles, identifying minefields and explosive devices (then getting rid of them), placing barriers, constructing protective positions and, when needed, performing infantry missions.
This unit fought in other actions as well, including Operation: Dessert Storm. More recently, they deployed in support of Operation: Iraqi Freedom in 2005, and again in 2007.
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Community homecoming ceremony for the 833rd at 3 p.m. Saturday, Evans Middle School in the gym, 812 Chester Ave.