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NEWS | Oct. 13, 2020

Safely ashore: 7th TBX mariners return from deployment

By Staff Sgt. Joshua Magbanua 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Soldiers from the 7th Transportation Brigade (Expeditionary), along with two logistics support vessels, have returned home after spending more than nine months at sea providing maritime logistics to U.S. forces in the Middle East.

The end of the deployment also marked the end of a mission which has spanned almost two decades supporting operations under U.S. Central Command. The 7th TBX, with assistance from other Army commands, has continuously provided rotational crews for LSVs to the area of operation since 1998.

“This is a day we have all looked forward to; we are extremely happy you are home,” said U.S. Army Col. Timothy R. Zetterwall, 7th TBX commander. “You have certainly lived up to the example set by Army mariners who have come before you. You are now part of the brave who have come before you, who have sailed across the Atlantic.”

Among the many operations the crew and their vessels supported was Operation Native Fury, an exercise conducted by U.S. and United Arab Emirates. The 7th TBX also played a critical role in supporting COVID-19 contingency operations by transporting hospital equipment.

“You have given yourselves to improve the security of the Middle East,” Zetterwall said. “The work you did building readiness throughout the CENTCOM area of operation greatly assisted with providing the joint force with flexibility, and helped to extend American national security. Your time in the Middle East is finished, but the fruits of your labor will continue on for generations.”

Chief Warrant Officer 4 Wendell McNeil, 7th TBX chief engineer, expressed gratitude for the safe arrival of him and his team. He emphasized the life of an Army mariner involves many rough seas, both literal and figurative. To accomplish the mission and safely return to the arms of their loved ones, the crew must work together and lean on each other.

“It’s been challenging, but we maintained safety and everyone was able to keep up high spirits for the long sail,” McNeil said. “I’m definitely excited to see my family. We’re going to relax, take it easy and slip back into our routine—having a sense of normalcy and taking it one day at a time.

The chief engineer praised his crew for maintaining professionalism and camaraderie during the deployment, adding that the unpredictable nature of maritime operations demands teamwork of the highest quality.

“You don’t know if the weather is going to work in your favor or not,” McNeil continued. “We all depend on each other to make each mission safe. It’s a great experience being part of a wonderful team.”

Zetterwall thanked both the returning Soldiers and their families, explaining that both parties had their share of sacrifices. Now that the Soldiers are safely ashore, Zeterwall encouraged them to make up for the lost time with their loved ones.

“We rejoice at your reunion with your loved ones, who have spent so many sleepless nights worrying for you,” Zetterwall said. “You, too, have made great sacrifices for the good of our nation. You can now return to your communities, where you will be the example of bravery and honor. Thanks for your service and welcome home!”

While McNeil was relieved to be home with his family, he noted that he and his team are always ready to answer the call of duty when needed.

“I’m sure we’ll find another mission where we can go out there and continue to make a positive impact—a global footprint for providing sustainment support throughout the nations,” McNeil said. “It may be the last deployment of that sort, but it definitely won’t be the last deployment for Army watercraft.”