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Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
Family and friends cheer as the Utah Army National Guard’s Echo Battery, 1st Battalion, 145th Field Artillery, “Big Red,” arrives at Roland R. Wright Air Base in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, April 9, 2019, after being deployed to the Middle East.

SALT LAKE CITY — Nearly 100 soldiers from Utah Army National Guard’s Echo Battery, 1st Battalion, 145th Field Artillery returned home from a 10-month deployment in the Middle East on Tuesday greeted by their friends, family and military family at Wright Air Base in Salt Lake City.

In June 2018, “Big Red” — Utah’s oldest military unit — deployed in support of Operation Spartan Shield and Operation Inherent Resolve to provide security assistance as well as conduct artillery missions with U.S. allies in the region, according to a news release. The Utah soldiers were stationed in the United Arab Emirates.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
Utah Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Sean Sullivan hugs his family at Roland R. Wright Air Base in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, April 9, 2019, as the guard's Echo Battery, 1st Battalion, 145th Field Artillery, “Big Red,” returns from a deployment in the Middle East.

For Staff. Sgt. Danny Ray, 34, of Elk Ridge, it was the first deployment in over 12 years and offered the chance to use the training he learned in 15 years in the National Guard to protect important military installations and the base on which the units were stationed.

"To me, it feels like we're out there helping people who otherwise can't help themselves," he said. "If there was a threat there, we would be able to secure it."

He noted that his previous deployment in 2006 in Iraq involved "a lot more conflict and a lot more danger," but this latest mission showed that the years of U.S. military efforts have paid some dividends in making the region safer than before.

"It has helped for sure," he said. "War is an ugly thing, but sometimes it's necessary (to make things safer). It's working. We're helping save lives like we're supposed to."

This mission was the first overseas deployment for 10-year National Guard veteran Sgt. Chris Batson, 45, of Ogden. He said the experience was particularly fulfilling because it gave him the chance to bond with the people in his unit.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
Members of the the Utah Army National Guard’s Echo Battery, 1st Battalion, 145th Field Artillery, “Big Red,” deplane at Roland R. Wright Air Base in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, April 9, 2019, after being deployed in the Middle East.

"We did put some training into action," he said. "Honestly though, the most satisfying part of the deployment was the team building."

Meanwhile, battalion commander Lt. Col. Eric Wiedmeier said while soldiers volunteer to serve the country in the military, the missions they are able to accomplish are enabled by the strong support of friends and family members as well as employers who are at home when their military members are on deployment. Without that backing, the soldiers would be hard-pressed to do their jobs when out on assignment.

"Utah is a phenomenally patriotic state," he said. "Employers have always supported our soldiers and given them what they need and helped their families out when they are gone."

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He also noted that the work and strength of spouses and family members at home are especially important to soldiers when they are deployed and that support is not recognized as much sometimes as it should be.

"We appreciate the families and their support to the military," Weidmeier said.

As for the end of the most recent deployment, it was the culmination of a lot of hard work and preparation by very dedicated soldiers, one military leader said.

“The mission that we have been given was full of opportunity,” said Echo Battery commander Capt. Jared Sorensen. “An opportunity to become better trained, better educated and stronger — both physically and mentally.”