Led by a bagpiper from the Mackenzie Highlanders, the last group of soldiers from the 186th Military Police Company were led into the Cloud Room on the second floor of the Des Moines International Airport main terminal for a welcome home ceremony Thursday evening.
Right behind the bagpiper was the unit’s commanding officer, Capt. Chad Wallway of Newton, fresh off his first deployment as a commander. Upon his return to Iowa, he said he was proud of the men and women under his command.
“Most people, when they hear the word ‘deployment’ think of Iraq or Afghanistan, but this was a deployment, too,” he said. “It wasn’t in a combat zone, but they did an awesome job, and they deserve recognition for that.”
Wallway became commanding officer of the 186th in November, just as the unit received its activation orders. Following a month of mission-specific training at Fort Bliss in Texas, the 186th was sent to Honduras as part of Joint Task Force Bravo.
“We were attached to the Joint Security Force, where we worked with members of the Air Force, Navy and Army,” Wallway said. “We also had members of the Puerto Rican National Guard. They were just like us — Army guys — and they helped us a lot with the language barrier.”
Prior to becoming commanding officer of the 186th, Wallway was the unit’s second-in-command. He has served with the unit for nine and a half years. The 186th last deployed in 2007-08 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
And although the most recent mission to Central America wasn’t in an active battle zone, he said the missions were just as real.
“They were in dangerous situations at times, and performed real missions,” he said. “I actually got to go on missions with the guys — which usually doesn’t happen for officers — riding in the helos and pulling security. It was fun to have an opportunity to do that, which was cool.”
The approximately 40 soldiers mobilized from the 186th provided security support for JTF Bravo training and missions, which included countering transnational organized crime, humanitarian assistance, disaster relief and working with their Honduran counterparts to enhance regional security. While deployed, the unit provided base defense, performed distinguished visitor protection, and responded to several disturbances, bomb threats, and drug trafficking.
The 186th also conducted several personnel recovery exercises and training events with U.S. Special Forces and Honduran Security Forces.
“One of the most rewarding aspects was that, when we’re here, it’s mostly training. Learning the job,” Wallway said. “During this mission, we were able to put all of that training to use in real-life situations. Being able to go on medical-type missions, where we’re helping people, and to see they were grateful, was rewarding, too.”
Prior to his deployment, the Newton Senior High School, Wentworth Military Academy and University of Northern Iowa graduate worked in the civilian sector as a private investigator. He said he wasn’t sure what he wants to do now that he’s back, but he’s fairly sure he doesn’t want to be “private eye” any longer.
“I’ll be looking to make a change. I’m not sure what just yet, but I just didn’t like that kind of work,” he said. “One of the best memories I’m going to take from this mission was being able to perform my duties as deputy commander and operations officer, and to be able to go on missions with the guys.”
Daily News Editor Bob Eschliman may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 423, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.