Ford watched his son’s birth in December via Skype from Afghanistan, more than 7,000 miles from his home in Jacksonville. He’s one of four soldiers of the A Company Detachment of the 1st Battalion of the 167th Infantry who will meet their children for the first time on Monday.
More than 70 Alabama National Guard soldiers from A Company from Valley and A Company Detachment from Anniston, as well as the soldiers from F Company from Oxford, will return home from a yearlong deployment on Monday. Nine months of that year were spent in Afghanistan.
“For nine months, every day not knowing if your child is OK or not is a humbling experience,” said Lauren Hobbs, whose son, Mitchell Skidmore, has been deployed with the A Company Detachment. “When you know they’re safe, it’s God’s grace.”
To welcome her son and his company home, Hobbs has helped organize a homecoming celebration for the 25 members of the A Company Detachment. On Monday, the soldiers’ families will eat lunch together at 11 a.m. at the McClellan Soccer Complex at the old parade field. The soldiers are expected to arrive around 2 p.m. Hobbs hopes the community will welcome the soldiers home by lining Alabama 21 with flags, posters and waving as the troops pass.
The Anniston and Oxford police and fire departments will help welcome the Alpha Co. detachment home, as will the Patriot Guard Riders, a motorcycle club that honors members of the armed forces.
During the homecoming celebration, the soldiers will participate in a short ceremony. Hobbs said the ceremony will be quick “because we can’t touch them until they’re released.”
Oxford’s F Company will be welcomed home as part of a larger celebration that includes the battalion headquarters. The event will take place at the Talladega Superspeedway on Monday at 2 p.m.
Alpha Co. had soldiers operating in three locations in Helmand Province in southern Afghanistan. The often-volatile Helmand is one of the country’s largest provinces.
Maj. Mike Tomberlin, the public affairs officer for the 1/167th, said that while they were in Helmand Province, the soldiers of Alpha Co. helped provide personal security and transport for NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan. The mission works to train the Afghan National Army, the Afghan Air Force and the Afghan National Police, with the ultimate goal of handing control over to the Afghan National Security Forces. Members of Oxford’s F Company also worked with the NATO mission throughout western Afghanistan.
For Hobbs, her son’s safe return home has been a year in the making. She said Skidmore’s daughter, Charlee, was a year old when he left. He will return just in time for her second birthday in June.
“He has missed so many milestones during her second year,” Hobbs said, adding, “We’re just so thankful that they’re coming home.”