Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Blanding Troops Nearing Return

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Blanding Troops Nearing Return

Article excerpt

Byline: ANNE SPONHOLTZ

Last Memorial Day, troops from Camp Blanding were undergoing intensive training at Camp Shelby, Miss., preparing for a yearlong deployment to Afghanistan.

This Memorial Day those same troops are beginning to look toward the day they will be returning home, with hopes that it will be in July.

The Camp Blanding troops form part of the Training Assistant Group stationed in Afghanistan. Lt. Col. Tom Martin, from Keystone Heights, serves as garrison commander for TAG, and has been assisting the Clay County Line in a series of articles about the mission and the soldiers from Camp Blanding.

Martin had the opportunity to come home for a brief visit when his son graduated from high school. He has since returned to Afghanistan and looks forward with anticipation to the day when instead of a visit home, he will be home to stay.

"Hopefully, we will be home for good sometime in July," Martin said during his recent visit home. The Camp Blanding troops have been assisting in the training of Afghan troops, and in the TAG newsletter for the months of March through April, Lt. 1st Class Dave Lutman from Clay Hill was praised as a "transportation mentor," whose efforts have brought "the savings of potential lives and property."

Others from the area who should be returning in July include Lt. Col. Mark Prewitt from Green Cove Springs; Master Sgt. Reid Hix, whose mother-in-law teaches at Keystone Heights Elementary School; Sgt. John Roenau of Middleburg; Staff Sgt. Jeff Beck from Keystone Heights and Lt. Col. Charles Golden, who served for some time on the Keystone Heights Airpark Authority.

Martin said the deployment has resulted in a lot of successes, yet at times it can be frustrating.

"Our soldiers have done an incredible amount of mentoring since our arrival," Martin said. "It has been frustrating at times as it seems for every two steps forward we take one back, but we are still moving forward. …

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