A hero’s welcome

Published 8:17 pm Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Atmore native John Wardrop, and son Logan, prepare for a year-long deployment to Afghanistan last January. Wardrop returned home in December along with every other member of the 1165th National Guard battalion.

“Family time.” Those were the words Atmore native Sgt. John Wardrop used to describe how he has been using his time back at home after spending a year in Afghanistan with the 1165th Military Police battalion of the Alabama National Guard.

“I’ve really been trying to catch up on family time, and it’s been going really good,” he said after less than a month back at his current home in Mobile with his wife, Eileen, and their 4-year-old son Logan.

Wardrop was one of 170 Alabamians who departed for Kabul Afghanistan on Jan. 2, 2010. Almost a year later and only two days before Christmas, Wardrop was one of 170 to return home. Not losing even one soldier while stationed in the war-riddled Middle Eastern country is something he said is a combination of good training and gifts from God.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

“The Lord blessed us with that,” Wardrop said. “We didn’t lose anybody to combat-related injuries. Also everybody pitching in and doing their job and being real careful.”

Wardrop graduated from Escambia County High School in 1999 and immediately enlisted with the active duty National Guard, heading for basic training at Fort Benning Georgia. Three years later, in 2002, he joined the 1165th.

Wardrop said the time he has spent with his battalion has formed life-long friendships. He added that it seems as if most of the 1165th are transitioning back into civilian life well.

“Some people have already started back at work or school or whatever it is they’re doing,” he said.

As for himself, Wardrop said he will head back to work as an electrician at Austal shipyard in Mobile, an international company that builds ships for the U.S. Navy. His work will be a far cry from the job he and his unit did in Afghanistan at their base, the New Kabul Compound.

“We did quick reaction force, and we controlled the flow of traffic in and out (of the base) making sure that anybody coming in was supposed to be there,” he said.

Wardrop said a new job is just one of many positive transitions he has made since arriving back at home, including reacquainting himself with everyday luxuries.

“(Afghanistan) was an experience,” he said. “The living quarters were really cramped. We had three men in a little 20-foot space, and the septic tank we had was way to small for 1200 people. It had to be emptied out several times a day. Otherwise they’d cut the water off and we didn’t get to shower.”

He said the most important aspect of his battalion’s time in Afghanistan remains the fact that everyone made it home safely.

“I think two people went home because of the tornadoes in north Alabama last year,” he said. “But we didn’t lose anybody for injuries or what not.”

While the 1165th are all back in Alabama unscathed, there is always the possibility of being called on again to serve America overseas Wardrop said.

“There is the possibility of future deployments but it’ll be quite a while. It would be a couple of years at least before we would go back.”
Regardless of the future, Wardrop said he and his fellow troops in the 1165th will not soon forget the love and support shown for their battalion by people back home in Alabama.

“We really appreciate everyone’s support and prayers and everybody pulling together to help us out anyway they could,” he said. “Because without that it would make it really hard on all of us.”