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Last wave of 48th Brigade redploys
Governor on Hunter to greet troops
Gov. Sonny Perdue, Maj. Gen. William Nesbitt, adjutant general of the Georgia National Guard, and their delegation arrive on Hunter Army Airfield Wednesday. - photo by HAAF PAO
SAVANNAH - After a year away from their families and jobs, the last big wave of citizen-soldiers from Georgia's 48th Infantry Brigade returned home Wednesday from Afghanistan.

Gov. Sonny Perdue greeted the 250 National Guard troops on the tarmac, shaking hands with each one after their plane landed at Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah.

"We're glad to have you back," said Perdue, who spoke for barely 30 seconds so the troops could hurry to meet their families waiting at nearby Fort Stewart. "We sent you away to do a job. You did it. You made us proud."

The 48th Brigade deployed about 3,000 citizen-soldiers - police officers and teachers, plumbers and truck drivers from across Georgia - to Afghanistan a year ago. Their primary task was training Afghan police and security forces.

The Afghanistan mission capped a busy decade for the National Guard brigade. It sent 1,200 peacekeepers to Bosnia for six months in 2001, then deployed more than 4,000 to Iraq for a year in 2005.

"In 2000, if I'd told you the 48th Brigade would deploy three times in the next 10 years, nobody would have believed it," said Col. Lee Durham of Macon, the brigade's commander.

Though Durham's flight Wednesday marked the last major homecoming for the brigade, not quite everybody's home yet.

Durham said about 20 of his troops remain in Afghanistan making sure all equipment has been turned in and accounted for. He said they should be back in about a week.

Returning soldiers belonged to the brigade's headquarters staff from Macon, the 48th Special Troops Battalion from Macon and Statesboro, and the 148th Brigade Support Battalion from Dublin, Forsyth and Jackson.

Eight soldiers from the 48th Brigade were killed during the deployment, most of them by roadside bombs. The casualties were far fewer than five years ago, when the brigade lost 26 soldiers in Iraq.

Bynum has covered the military based in Georgia since 2001.

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