Veronica Avila and her son Jesiah, 2, attend Sunday’s demobilization ceremony at McLoughlin High School while husband Sgt. Jose Avila stands in formation with other 1186th Military Police Company members.
Photo by Alfred Diaz.
MILTON-FREEWATER — All 42 local members of the 1186th Military Police Company that served in Afghanistan for 12 months were welcomed home Sunday at a formal demobilization ceremony at McLoughlin High School.
Maj. Jack Gillentine said 159 members of the 1186th were deployed to Kabul, where they provided protection and policing at Camp Eggers, Camp Phoenix, Bala Hassar and the New Kabul Compound, as well as working as advisory teams for local Afghan police forces. And all 159 made it back with no casualties.
“All of us, every single one,” Gillentine said.
During the tour of duty, Afghanistan saw an escalation in violence, especially with insider attacks in which men, sometimes wearing Afghan army uniforms, attack coalition forces in what are called “green on blue” assaults.
“The green on blue, that was our biggest concern and we were involved with that heavily over there,” Gillentine said.
About 160 people attended the afternoon ceremony that honored the 42 members as they stood in formation on the gymnasium floor of the high school for almost an hour as speeches were made and live martial music was performed.
Among those in formation was company member Henry Becerril, who said they managed to maintain security and continue their mission, even after the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
“It made us feel like we were lucky because everywhere there was bad stuff going on around us,” Becerril said. “It was all around us, but never in Kabul.”
During their entire mission, Becerril said security levels varied daily and that even at the lower security levels they were prepared.
“One day it was (code) red or black, which mean nobody rolls out. And the next day it was amber, which means anything was still possible,” Becerril said, adding that one of the signs they were told to look for were empty streets that would normally be busy during the day. “There were times when the hairs on the back of our heads stood up. Usually when there were no kids out. When we didn’t see any kids out there or other people and it was the middle of the week, it was nerve-racking.”
The 1186th started its deployment last October and remained in Afghanistan until Sept. 18.
Local members based out of the Milton-Freewater armory arrived home around Sept. 29.
Along with Sunday’s ceremony, company members and their family also took part in a variety of classes and work groups designed to help military personnel adjust to re-entry into civilian life.
After the one-hour ceremony, company members and their family were treated to a barbecue from BBQ Out of the Blues of Pendleton and beer from Rogue Brewery of Newport, which has created a special Kabul Brew to honor the 1186th.