Local Guard Soldiers Are Back On Friendly Turf
By Jennifer McDermott
Day Staff Writer
October 28, 2011
11 state Guardsmen return to Groton after a year in Middle East
Groton- For the past year, Staff Sgt. Daniel Morabito's five children each wore three dog tags around their necks.
One was a replica of the military ID tag Morabito was wearing in Afghanistan. Another bore the phrase, "my soldier, my hero, my dad." The U.S. Army's values were on the third.
The family said the tags made them feel closer to their father while he was deployed to the Middle East.
"It keeps his purpose close to our hearts," Adrianna Morabito said. "We know he's serving for us and for everyone in the country."
On Thursday the Morabitos planned to take the tags off, and the yellow ribbon on their front door in Colchester would be taken down.
Their father was home.
Daniel Morabito was one of the 11 soldiers from the Connecticut National Guard's 1109th Theater Aviation Sustainment Maintenance Group who returned to the unit's hangar at the Groton-New London Airport Thursday. One soldier who deployed had already come home because of a medical issue.
They spent the past year maintaining aircraft in Kuwait, Afghanistan and Iraq. Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman was at the hangar Thursday to welcome the soldiers back to the state.
One member of the maintenance group, Chief Warrant Officer 4 Andrew Gaudette of Canterbury, worked as a maintenance test pilot in Iraq. His wife, Sgt. First Class Heather Gaudette, worked in the warehouse facilities in Kuwait.
President Barack Obama has announced that combat troops will leave Iraq by the end of this year. The last National Guard unit from the state to serve in Iraq, the 250th Engineer Company of New London, returned home in August 2010.
With the withdrawal, Connecticut National Guard spokesman Col. John Whitford said, the training and deployments for the Guard will be concentrated more on Afghanistan.
About 120 soldiers and airmen from Connecticut are currently deployed, the majority in Afghanistan. Next year, that number will climb to nearly 600.
The Guard's 142nd Medical Company and half the members of the 1109th maintenance group, formerly known as the Aviation Classification and Repair Depot (AVCRAD), are scheduled to go to Afghanistan, Whitford said. The sendoff ceremony for the medical company is next month.
Daniel Morabito, 44, said he was in Afghanistan to support the Army's aviation missions. "We kept them flying," he said at the hangar.
Morabito carried a backpack with a stuffed chicken strapped to it. He said the chicken kept him company overseas. "I didn't have my family, my peeps, around," he said with a laugh.
It was Morabito's second deployment with the Guard; he previously served 16 years in the submarine force. Morabito said it made him feel good knowing that his children wore the tags while he was away.
"It was their way of supporting me, supporting all of us really, and what we were doing over there," he said.