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All of Sussex, Wisconsin-based Battery A, 1st Battalion, 121st Field Artillery is now back safely in the United States after a nine-month deployment to Afghanistan.

Approximately half of the unit returned to Wisconsin in December, but the rest remained in Afghanistan to continue its fire support mission. The high-mobility artillery rocket system (HIMARS) unit was among the first Army National Guard units to complete a fire support mission in Afghanistan. Its sister battery, Battery B, 1st Battalion, 121st Field Artillery became the first in 2012.

More than 30 Soldiers from the unit landed at Fort Hood, Texas, Feb. 10, where senior leaders from the Wisconsin Army National Guard were waiting planeside to greet them. The Soldiers subsequently travelled to Fort Bliss, Texas, where they will complete the demobilization process before returning to Wisconsin.

The unit’s travel back to home soil took multiple days, but the Soldiers were in good spirits when they landed, according to Command Sgt. Maj. Bradley Shields, Wisconsin’s senior enlisted advisor.

“They were very proud of what they accomplished over there as artillerymen doing a combat fire support mission,” Shields said. “But they’re looking forward to getting back to Wisconsin.”

While in Afghanistan, Battery A provided 24-hour HIMARS 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.

In the conflicts of the past decade, artillery units have often been re-purposed to perform non-artillery missions like route security and detainee operations, so performing an artillery mission in combat was significant.

“Over the last 12 years we’ve filled in on many different missions and haven’t had the opportunity to go overseas in a combat zone and have the artillery conduct an actual artillery mission,” Shields said. “So it’s quite an honor for two of our batteries from Wisconsin to fill that mission in the last couple of years.”

Battery A deployed twice previously to Iraq in 2006 and 2009. Its most recent deployment was the unit’s first to