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Pics/Video: SD Nat’l Guard holds combined welcome home, deployment ceremony

Joint welcome home and deployment ceremony held for South Dakota National Guard's 641st Aviation Regiment & 129th MPAD, May 14, 2022. (South Dakota National Guard/Released)

For the first time in history, the South Dakota Army National Guard held a combined welcome home and deployment ceremony for two units on Saturday at the Aviation Readiness Center located at Rapid City Regional Airport.

Dignitaries attending the ceremony included Gov. Kristi Noem, Lt. Gov. Larry Rhoden, U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds, U.S. Rep. Dusty Johnson, and the adjutant general of the South Dakota Army National Guard Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Marlette.

Detachment 5, Company C of the 2/641st Aviation Regiment deployed to the Horn of Africa in June 2021. The unit deployed as part of Operation Enduring Freedom and supported the Combined Task Force-Horn of Africa to provide aviation support in the region of Djibouti.

The seven soldiers are pilots and operation specialists that operate the C-12 Huron, a military grade Beechcraft King Air that transports personnel.

Joint welcome home and deployment ceremony held for South Dakota National Guard’s 641st Aviation Regiment & 129th MPAD, May 14, 2022. (South Dakota National Guard/Released)

At Saturday’s welcome home ceremony, Chief Warrant Officer 5 Wayne Walker, who is the unit commander, said the deployment was very positive for everyone.

“We were at a joint base, so we got the opportunity to work very closely with the Navy, Air Force and Marines, as well as embassy personnel and the local nationals at the locations we worked on,” Walker said. “We worked on bringing passengers, sometimes cargo, to the surrounding areas. That could be anything from a small grass runway to an international airport. We were very successful in that mission.”

Joint welcome home and deployment ceremony held for South Dakota National Guard’s 641st Aviation Regiment & 129th MPAD, May 14, 2022. (South Dakota National Guard/Released)

This was the 641st’s fifth unit deployment and was the first time supporting missions in the Horn of Africa. The 641st has four previous deployments. The unit was deployed to South America in 2005 and to Afghanistan in 2006, 2011 and 2015.

While the unit from the 641st was being welcomed home, another unit was being deployed to Germany.

Joint welcome home and deployment ceremony held for South Dakota National Guard’s 641st Aviation Regiment & 129th MPAD, May 14, 2022. (South Dakota National Guard/Released)

The 129th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment will travel to Europe in support of the European Defense Initiative to provide communications during the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

Capt. Julieanne Muckey, the unit commander for the 129th, said the mission is coming at an important moment in history.

“We can see this recognizable struggle on the internet — for access, influence and information. We’ve heard some of the familiar terms of ‘fake news,’ misinformation or even information warfare,” Muckey said. “We have the honor and privilege to go to Europe and share, document history, tell our story as a military. [We’ll tell] the great things that we’re doing alongside our European allies and partners.

“Sharing this information is going to help deter our enemies and it is inherent that it’s going to help. I’m incredibly grateful for the journalists on this team.”

Ten members of the 129th will be on the mission. This is the third deployment of the 129th. In 2005, the unit was deployed to Qatar and MacDill Air Force Base in support of U.S. Central Command, and to Afghanistan in 2013.

Marlette said he is extremely proud of the South Dakota Army National Guard.

“We truly are a world-class organization. We have never failed to show up for a state active duty mission. We get called and we go,” Marlette said. “And we have never failed to show up for a federal mission. We go and distinguish ourselves and provide every single thing that’s needed.”

Johnson complimented the state’s Guard members on always being ready for a mission.

“It requires a certain work ethic and it requires a certain commitment. Nobody in the world does readiness like the United States Armed Forces,” Johnson said. “And with all the awards the South Dakota National Guard gets, there isn’t anybody in the National Guard universe who gets readiness like this organization.”

Rounds said the South Dakota National Guard is consistent with their willingness to go where they are needed.

“When our nation calls, South Dakotans have responded,” he said. “We owe you a debt of gratitude. This is not going to stop anytime soon. And while it’s a smaller series of units that are leaving, their jobs are just as important after 9-11.”

Noem, who is the commander-in-chief of the South Dakota National Guard, said it was certainly a unique situation to welcome one unit home, while sending another unit on deployment at the same time.

“That creates a unique challenge. Because when I think about our troops coming home and walking in the door for the very first time, you have celebrations and joy on your face,” Noem said. “We are also deploying soldiers, recognizing the burden that bears. I always picture when our soldiers head out the door to go do their mission with a very serious, steadfast gaze and set jaw — knowing what their mission is and that they need to complete it.

“They will do so and make sure they do it with respect to the United States of America and the men and women who served alongside them.”

Noem said the National Guard is always ready to serve.

“Our National Guard sees conflict, stressful situations as opportunities to serve each other. To step up and complete their job with excellence,” she said. “And with that I am so incredibly grateful for your service… You represent this great country with honor and dignity.”

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(c) 2022 Rapid City Journal

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