- Associated Press - Friday, December 19, 2014

SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) - In a story Dec. 18 about National Guard troops returning to Georgia, The Associated Press reported erroneously on how many units have returned home. It’s the first holiday season since 9/11 that none of the Georgia Army National Guard’s units are deployed. The Georgia Air National Guard does have units deployed.

A corrected version of the story is below:

Ga. Guard troops home in time for holidays

Georgia National Guard soldiers return from Afghanistan deployment just in time for holidays


Associated Press

SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) - Army Chief Warrant Officer 4 Duane Sandbothe returned from a deployment to Afghanistan on Thursday with plans to keep his holiday homecoming a secret from his 8-year-old son for a full week.

“He’s supposed to ask Santa Claus to get me home for Christmas,” said Sandbothe, 41, of Savannah, after his parents and other family members greeted him at Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah. They plan to help him lay low until he can surprise his son.

Sandbothe was among 61 citizen-soldiers of the Georgia National Guard coming back from a 10-month deployment exactly a week before Christmas. Another 60 members of their unit - the 1st Battalion, 169th General Support Aviation Battalion - were headed home to Alabama, which shares the unit’s B Company with Georgia.

The Georgia Army National Guard said this is the first holiday season since 9/11 that none of its units will be deployed, though about 40 individual soldiers remain overseas assisting units from other states. Georgia began sending its citizen-soldiers to Afghanistan in November 2001.

Soldiers of the 1-169th left Savannah in February to train in Texas before arriving in Afghanistan during the spring. The unit flies twin-rotor Chinook helicopters and divided its deployment between delivering ammunition, food and other supplies to soldiers in the field and transporting troops from U.S. bases that are closing.

Capt. Ben Hudson, the Georgia company’s senior officer, said it was never a given that they would return home in time for the holidays. For a time he said, they expected their deployment to be extended into January.

“It meant everything in the world for me, my soldiers and their families that we come home for Christmas,” Hudson said.

Many of B Company’s troops had deployed to Afghanistan twice before - in 2005 and 2010 - and had spent the holidays away from their families both times.

There was no pomp and ceremony after the citizen-soldiers stepped off their buses at the Savannah Army post Thursday. Their wives and children rushed to wrap them in bear hugs as soon as their boots touched the pavement.

“We didn’t want anything else, just him,” said Colleen Reynolds, who was greeting her husband along with their teenage daughters.

Staff Sgt. Christopher Reynolds said he won’t have to spend too much time catching up on his Christmas shopping in the coming week. Even though he spent the past months 7,400 miles from home, he was able to do a little gift shopping in his spare time.

“I did some of it,” he said. “Computers are awesome.”

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