Nearly 100 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) soldiers returned home Friday afternoon from a deployment to the African nation of Cameroon. Due to repairs being done at Fort Campbell Army Airbase, these soldiers of 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team “Bastogne,” took the unusual step of having to land at Nashville International Airport before being bussed to post.
Their homecoming concludes one of 20 visits 1st BCT soldiers will make to Africa this year. Earlier this month, a contingent of 148 Bastogne soldiers returned from Djibouti. These deployments are not about delivering tanks or shrapnel, but toys and supplies to local schools and orphanages. The men were there to expand on positive relationships with local communities and the nation’s government. In addition to community outreach, soldiers conducted meetings with local civic, military and religious leaders to exchange information.
“If a lot of children were involved in education, they would know what is good or bad and would think for themselves,” Col. Barthelemy Tsilla said in the report.
Soldiers were also expected to maintain readiness and conduct base security. Some tested for the Cameroon Commando Badge. Earning the honor is considered akin to the Army’s Expert Infantry Badge and consists of 22 tasks covering weapons, medicine and patrolling lanes in addition to a fitness test, a seven-and-a-half mile endurance test and a packing list layout, according to a news release. Ultimately, 19 Baker Company soldiers earned the right to wear the badge.
Regardless of the positive nature of the mission, soldiers were still happy to be home. Even though it warmed to about 80 degrees as soldiers poured off the buses, it was still cooler than in Cameroon, where April is one of the hottest months of the year.
“Definitely glad to be back in the cooler weather,” Lt. John Yerby said. “It feels great (to be back.) I’m glad to have (my) two kids back around, and hopefully we’ll keep them occupied for a little while.”