"In very good spirits:" Wisconsin National Guard artillerymen return to U.S. from Afghanistan

SUSSEX (WITI) -- Approximately 40 Soldiers from Sussex, Wisconsin-based Battery A, 1st Battalion, 121st Field Artillery, landed safely in the United States December 2nd. The group represents approximately half of the nearly 80-Soldier unit that originally deployed to Afghanistan in the spring.

The remainder of the unit will remain in Afghanistan and continue providing high-mobility artillery rocket system (HIMARS) fire support until a later date to be determined.

The contingent of Battery A landed at Fort Bliss, Texas, where they were greeted by senior leaders from the Wisconsin Army National Guard. The Soldiers will begin their demobilization process at Fort Bliss before returning to Wisconsin in the coming weeks.

Command Sgt. Maj. Bradley Shields was on hand to greet them as they came off the plane.

"The Soldiers were tired after a long flight but in very good spirits," he said. "We're incredibly proud of them and what they've accomplished. To be among the first National Guard Soldiers to complete a combat fire support mission in Afghanistan puts them in elite company."

Shields said the Soldiers were looking forward to reuniting with loved ones upon their return to Wisconsin.

Battery A is one of only a few National Guard artillery units to perform a combat fire support mission in Afghanistan. Their sister battery from the same battalion in the Wisconsin Army National Guard made history when it became the first during its 2012-2013 deployment.

Since arriving in Afghanistan, Battery A has provided 24-hour HIMARS fire support to a joint special operations task force. The unit's fire support operations provided coverage for nearly half of Afghanistan and supported more than 200 combat missions.

The unit deployed twice previously to Iraq in 2006 and 2009. Its most recent deployment was the unit's first to Afghanistan.