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Rapid City soldiers welcomed home

Sgt. Derek Lebeau is welcomed back from Afghanistan.

Sgt. Derek Lebeau is welcomed back from Afghanistan.

RAPID CITY – Six soldiers from Detachment 48, Operational Support Airlift Command, were welcomed home by family and friends at the Army Aviation Support Facility in Rapid City, Jan. 23, after returning from duty in Afghanistan. 

The South Dakota Army National Guard unit served an eight-month deployment in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, where the unit’s mission was to provide aerial reconnaissance and surveillance in support of U.S. and coalition ground commanders in the field. 

“It’s great to be home,” said Sgt. Derek Lebeau, aerial sensor operator. “Instead of seeing (my family) on my phone, or my computer, I get to hug them and keep them close.” 

Gov. Dennis Daugaard, U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds, Rapid City Mayor Steve Allender and Maj. Gen. Tim Reisch, adjutant general of the SDNG, were a few of the distinguished guest to welcome the unit home. 

“I know that I am lucky, because you and people like you won the freedoms I enjoy and take for granted… and you’re still today protecting them, and offering them to so many people around the world who want desperately to have what we have. Welcome home,” said Daugaard. 

“It’s kind of humbling to have such a strong showing of the state leadership showing up to welcome us home,” said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Wayne Walker, Det. 48 commander. 

Detachment 48 is a fixed-wing aviation unit comprised of pilots and operations specialists that operated the Medium Altitude, Reconnaissance and Surveillance System (MARSS) King Air 300 aircraft. While on deployment, the unit flew 700 mission totaling 3,000 hours. 

This is the third mobilization for the unit, which deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in 2008 and 2011. 

“It’s a bit of job satisfaction knowing that we’re needed and utilized on a regular basis,” said Walker.

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