Area National Guard unit returns home in time for holidays

160 soldiers from 829th Engineer Company return from Afghanistan

More than 100 Wisconsin service members are back with their families just in time for the holidays.

The approximately 150 National Guard members with the 829th Engineer Company based in Chippewa Falls were welcomed home Monday afternoon with hugs, cheers, and a ceremony at Volk Field in Camp Douglas.

They spent the last six months in Afghanistan deconstructing coalition facilities and making sure the materials could not be used by enemy forces. They were also helping with the troop drawdown and handling military materials.

And they’re home early.

“Due to the president’s force cap measures, plus the fact that we worked efficiently and completed the mission ahead of time, there was no need to keep us there,” said 829th Engineer Company Commander Captain Kyle Gruber.

The unit now goes on leave. They will have a reunion in February to make sure everyone is healthy.

In the meantime there’s a lot of excitement to spend time at home with family.

“It’s just like ‘whoa’, such a huge rush especially with the snow and the cold in the air, it’s just like a shock to your body, and then the adrenaline, getting to see your family and friends especially the excitement just before the holidays, it’s truly a blessing,” said Erica Steinke, of the 829th Engineer Company.

“Everyone is home right before Christmas, I’ve never heard of that before, so it’s really cool,” said Jessica Steinke.

The 829th also has detachments in Richland Center and Ashland.