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Final civilian-Marines from Albany back from Afghanistan

James Burris embraces his son, Ian, as wife Sabrina (far right) and daughter, Abbi, wait their turn. Burris is one the two remaining civilian-Marine employees of MDMC-Albany to return from Afghanistan Friday.

James Burris embraces his son, Ian, as wife Sabrina (far right) and daughter, Abbi, wait their turn. Burris is one the two remaining civilian-Marine employees of MDMC-Albany to return from Afghanistan Friday.

ALBANY — Friday marked a landmark event for the Marine Depot Maintenance Command based at MCLB-Albany, as the final two civilian-Marines deployed to Afghanistan returned home.

According to the MDMC, no other employees are scheduled either to deploy or return from deployment, as all All Overseas Contingency Operations support missions are now complete.

Civilian-Marine employees Fred Miller and James Burris found their ultimate U.S. destination around 5 p.m. Friday, arriving at Southwest Georgia Regional Airport in Albany.

“I’m just happy to be back with the hospitality, the fellowship, keying off good friends and not having to worry about watching our backs,” said Miller. “There are bad guys out there. We still have warfighters out there continuing the effort.”

The returnees said they had been occupied mostly on maintaining, sustaining and providing quality upgrades for the “Cougar,” the Marine Corps version of the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle, or MRAP. Miller described the vehicles as “big hunkering lugs,” designed especially to protect ground troops from enemy improvised explosive devices placed in ambush situations.

“It was quite a push to get it out,” Miller said, “and to field it. That’s the platform, the defining piece of gear for this effort. What the helicopter was in Vietnam, the MRAP is going to be for Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.”

Miller said he believes a lot of progress has been made in Afghanistan, not only for the war cause but for the Afghan people as well.

“In just the two years I was there, the economy has picked up,” Miller said. “The people are starting to interact more economically. Think the key is establishing an economic base for them to succeed and grow on.”

Burris, who spent a year in Afghanistan as a heavy mobile equipment leader, found his return to be “refreshing,” he said.

“For me it was an honor to spend time with the folks over there and to support the Marine mission. I’d do it again. Absolutely,” Burris said.