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Army reservist received big homecoming welcome after deployment in Afghanistan

Stanly County American Legion Post 76 recently welcomed home one of its own after a long overseas deployment.

A ceremony at the Stanly County Fairgrounds honored Lt. Col. Allan Austin, who was home after a deployment of more than a year in Afghanistan.

Austin, a 32-year member of the U.S. Army Reserves, was the Operations Officer of the Regional Support Group and the Base Defense Operations/Force Protection Officer at Afghanistan’s Camp Resolute Support.

Austin said his morale “was further heightened by the hearty homecoming I received on behalf of myself and my Afghan team. This hometown support eased the stress of being in a hostile environment so far away from home.”

He deployed as an individual augmentee with the 206th regional support group in August 2019 and was released from duty this past July. He first joined his unit at Fort Hood in Texas, where the unit then flew to Kuwait, Bagram and finally Camp R.S. in Kabul last September.

His team coordinated with the U.S. Embassy in Kabul and others who assisted the team with base security.

“Our team was kept busy since we were the headquarters for all of Afghanistan’s operations,” Austin said. “As this was a NATO camp, there were representatives from roughly 30 countries at any one time which provided cultural and language challenges.”

The unit also ran base life support, including dining facilities, morale, welfare and recreation (MWR), engineering and more along with defense and security.

Austin was also in charge of the Base Defense Operations Center, with a team of soldiers from Georgia manning defensive positions, gates and towers. He also had Macedonian soldiers on the escort security team and Lithuanians as internal military police.

During his time at the base, Austin was in charge when the U.S. agreed to depart Afghanistan after the signing of the peace deal. Before he left in June, he headed up the planning for the closing of the camp.

Austin said they heard about the coronavirus reports from home, with things working similarly on the base. Only essential services were in operation, with just two restaurants and the base dining facility doing take-out only. A group of national contractors agreed to keep services going and move on to the base.

With the base locked down by the commanding general, access to the base was restricted, with at-risk cases and non-mission essential personnel sent home. Masks were required in gatherings and on missions.

During his time away, Austin said he never felt far from home because of support from Stanly. He received prayer shawls and birthday cards from Union Chapel United Methodist Church, while its pastor, Rev. Robert Clark, sent them crosses made from horseshoe nails.

The Legion post sent Christmas and Easter packages, which Austin said each weighed about 90 pounds, adding it “made us feel closer to home for the holidays.”

Regular emails from the post kept Austin aware of what was happening on the home front, he added.

“This eased our concerns for our families and enhanced our morale.”