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Arizona National Guard company returns from mission in Middle East

Posted at 10:39 PM, Feb 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-19 00:39:24-05

PHOENIX — We don't hear much about it these days, but America is still very much at war against ISIS and other terrorist groups, and Arizona's National Guard is part of that fight.

But no one was talking about war Friday at Sky Harbor Airport — because this was a homecoming.

"I've missed him so much every day," said Lisa Datema as she waited for her son Jake. "Just seeing him, and I'm excited to get to go back to mother-son date night once a month."

Jake is one of 87 members of the Arizona National Guards' Alpha Company, 422nd Expeditionary Signal Battalion who just returned after a 10-month deployment in the Middle East.

"I think it's important that we are doing what we need to do in the Middle East, but on the other hand, this is my son. It's important to me that he's home safe," said Jake's dad Mike Datema.

As the guardsmen were dismissed, Edith Valdez and 4-year-old Cesar had their eyes set on one of them, Sargeant Cesar Valdez.

"It's been a real hard time, but I'm so excited. I have no words. Just excited right now," said Edith Valdez about her husband's return.

Alpha Company provided communication services to coalition forces in support of Operation Inherent Resolve and Spartan Shield; two missions targeting ISIS-affiliated terrorist groups in Syria, Iraq, and the Horn of Africa.

Earlier this month, U.S. forces assisted in a raid killing the leader of the Islamic State, Amir Muhammad Sa'id Abdal-Rahman al-Mawla, at his compound in Syria.

"We weren't the ones actually doing the strike, but we provided their communications," said Captain Steve Damon, Alpha Company's commander. "We did our part to help everyone be successful."

Home safe, it's all about family, friends, and the satisfaction of mission accomplished.