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Readiness Enabler for Operational Forces  •
Iraq requirements kept returned artisan focused

By Art Powell | | July 30, 2009

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Kenneth Henderson, heavy equipment mechanic, Trades Department, Maintenance Center Albany, arrived at Southwest Georgia Regional Airport July 23 following an 11-month tour of duty in Iraq.

It was his second deployment to Iraq and he noted the changes since he first went there in 2005.

“It was different then than it is now. In 2005 and 2006, there was more insurgent activity. This time, not so much,” said the Tifton, Ga., resident. “You can watch the progress, as far as troops pulling out and things of that nature. It’s definitely different.”

He said he was satisfied with the work he accomplished while deployed.

“The time away from home was rough, but we did a lot of good work over there on Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles,” he explained. “We did technical support, special installations, repairs and kept the Marines up and running. They were out on convoy patrols and doing route clearing.”

Henderson said the satisfaction of knowing he was helping Marines meet mission requirements with well-maintained equipment help offset the impact of him being away from home.

“You take missing your family and compare it to having a Marine actually thank you for working on his vehicle because he’s not going to break down while he’s on a route clearing mission. My job is to make sure the Marines can do their job, so I can sleep at night.”

Henderson’s arrival was the latest in a process that sees MCA workers deploy to support Overseas Contingency Operations. Others are already slated to leave while others are nearing the ends of their tour.

“The leaving was the hardest part,” Henderson said. “Missing holidays, birthdays, things like that. Me being gone was tougher on my wife and son than it was on me because I drove a truck for 15 years, so I’m used to being gone. But this was more gone than what I was used to.”

Now that he’s safely home, Henderson said he’s ready to make the rounds of his favorite restaurants and looks forward to cutting the grass, something he missed while deployed. While he was gone, his family adjusted to his absence.

“We had to deal with the day to day stuff he used to do around the house, like taking care of the car, taking the dog out. Somebody had to do it,” said Henderson’s wife, Bickie.

Henderson was also greeted at the airport by Col. Terry W. Reid, commander, MCA.

“This is my first opportunity to be here to greet a worker returning from an overseas deployment,” said Reid, who assumed command of MCA July 17. “First of all, I’m pleased with the turnout here. His family is here, Public Affairs is here, the Marine Corps League is here. I want to make sure that if there is one, 10 or 15 returning, that somebody is here to welcome Marines and civilian-Marines. If I’m in town, I’ll be here. You can put that on my calendar.”

Four members of the Marine Corps League’s Detachment 1260, Maj. Lawrence DesJardines chapter, Albany, Ga., held up a welcome home banner for Henderson to enjoy as he walked into the airport lobby.

“We have members who are active duty Marines, retired Marines, Marine veterans such as myself, Navy corpsmen and reservists,” said Tom Newton, with the Marine Corps League. He was accompanied by other Marine Corps League members Bob Adams, Dale Rodgers and Dave Aldrich.

Each had a story about their own homecoming experience from overseas duty while they served in the Marine Corps.

“When I returned from Vietnam in 1969, I arrived in San Francisco and there were a lot of flower people and flower children around. It wasn’t much of a welcome,” said Aldrich.

“They told us to get out of our uniforms as soon as possible so you wouldn’t be confronted by anti-war protestors in the airport. It wasn’t an official policy, just a lot of talk. I never had a problem, but some people did,” said Adams.

Their goal now is to ensure Marines and civilian-Marines returning from Overseas Contingency Operations have a friendly homecoming.


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