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290th JCSS returns home following deployment

by Lt. Col. Eric Buchanan

In a patriotic ceremony Nov. 1, the 290th Joint Communications Support Squadron was officially ordered off active duty.

Airmen of the 290th, family members and distinguished visitors from Tampa assembled at the Robinson High School auditorium to celebrate the demobilization.

A rotation of members from the 290th has been serving on active duty since Sept. 24. Brig. Gen. Joseph G. Balskus, Florida National Guard chief of staff, thanked the squadron for its sacrifice and told members how much its service has meant to this country. "You answered the call on a minute's notice and made us proud," he said.

While mobilized, the 290th was operationally controlled by the Joint Communications Support Element at MacDill. "The unit provides secure and non-secure line-of-sight and long haul communications capability to war fighters. We have the capability to install, operate and maintain a fully operational Joint Task Force Headquarters, providing phones, data, and video teleconferencing capabilities to a tactical headquarters," said Capt. Lee Vaughan, 290th JCSS deputy director of operations.

Members of the 290th have been deployed in support of both Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. "At the height of military operations, personnel were deployed to eight simultaneous locations around the globe supporting six major combatant commands including Pacific, Joint Forces, Special Operations, Transportation, Central, Southern and European Commands," said Captain Vaughan.

Following the official ceremony, the troops picnicked at the 290th compound, where representatives of the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve program greeted them. ESGR representative LeRoy Collins, was on hand to inform the airmen of their civilian reemployment rights and to let them know ESGR was there to help if they had any problems with their employers.

Tech. Sgt. Richard Beard was activated the day after he was hired for a new job. He had not been to work yet, when the call came in. His new employer told him they would give him only 90 days to report for work. Sergeant Beard called his ESGR representative, and now two years later, he is going to that new job.

Every Citizen Soldier has their individual story to tell. Mark Heart, a middle school career specialist, had his graduate degree program interrupted, "I had one semester left."

A grateful nation appreciates the sacrifice of these great Americans. Currently, approximately 90 JCSS airmen are still voluntarily supporting the global war on terrorism.




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