Hawaii Guard ending Afghan tour
The last of nearly 4,000 Hawaii Army National Guard soldiers are expected to return this morning from combat duty in Central Asia.
Spending a year in Afghanistan, 57 citizen soldiers belonging to the Hawaii Army National Guard's 298th Engineer Detachment and 10 members of the 117th Public Affairs Detachment were expected to greet teary but relieved families and friends at Schofield Barracks' Martinez Fitness Center.
This was the second active-duty tour for many members of the 117th, who were mobilized for a year's tour of duty in Bosnia in 1996. Ten years later the Hawaii Army Guard journalists were assigned to Kandahar and were responsible for putting out the base newspaper and the coalition's newsletter.
The 298th Engineers worked on construction projects and repaired buildings. Although Hawaii Army National Guard engineers were based in Kandahar, they regularly sent construction teams to various outlying forward operating bases to fortify their facilities.
Their other major task was to build a road through mountainous Afghan terrain connecting Kandahar to Tarin-khot.
In 2003, 62 Chinook helicopter aviators and mechanics belonging to Bravo Company, 193rd Aviation, were sent to Afghanistan and were the first Hawaii Army National Guard soldiers to be deployed overseas since the Vietnam War.
They were followed by 200 aviators and mechanics from Bravo Company's sister unit -- Charlie Company -- that was sent to Iraq.
In August 2004 more than 3,500 members of the 29th Brigade Combat Team were mobilized and, after five months of training at Schofield Barracks, Fort Bliss in Texas and Fort Polk in Louisiana, were deployed to Iraq, arriving there in March 2005 for nine months of desert duty.
Sixteen Lava Brigade soldiers were killed. Of the 16 soldiers, Sgt. Deyson "Dice" Cariaga, 20, was the only one from Hawaii to die in Iraq. He was killed by a roadside bomb last July 8.