Fulton man among Guard members returning home

Soldiers worked with civilian journalists in Afghanistan; Fulton’s Flynn picks up photo award

Sgt. Alex Flynn is greeted by his grandmother, Mrs. Harold Flynn, both of Fulton, during a brief ceremony to welcome home returning members of the 70th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment held Tuesday at Missouri National Guard Headquarters. Since being mobilized in July of last year, Flynn has reached the rank of sergeant and won second place in the Military Photographer of the Year Contest.

Sgt. Alex Flynn is greeted by his grandmother, Mrs. Harold Flynn, both of Fulton, during a brief ceremony to welcome home returning members of the 70th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment held Tuesday at Missouri National Guard Headquarters. Since being mobilized in July of last year, Flynn has reached the rank of sergeant and won second place in the Military Photographer of the Year Contest. Photo by Julie Smith.

— Family welcomed home a Fulton native Tuesday as he picked up an award for photography during a tour of duty in Afghanistan.

Friends, family and colleagues gathered to welcome home the Missouri National Guard’s 70th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment at the Skelton Training Site.

The detachment was deployed for nine months in southern Afghanistan to train, advise and assist the Afghan National Army. They also contributed to more than 1,200 stories that shared the tales of fellow soldiers and war efforts on multimedia platforms including photo, video and print. Their work was shown on more than 142 media outlets across the globe.

A soldier from the unit, Sgt. Alex Flynn, placed second for the Military Photographer of the Year award. Flynn, who grew up in Fulton and graduated from Missouri Military Academy in Mexico, went on more than 120 missions with a combat arms battalion.

“There is a lot to talk about,” Flynn said about his time overseas. “I was an infantry man originally before I picked up photography, so I meshed well with infantry units and I figured that was the most important thing I could photograph while I was there.”

His prize-winning photo was a child and a soldier separated by a concrete barrier, he said. He also said that he wants to go back to Afghanistan as a civilian journalist once he gets a chance, but for now he is going to try and get an education.

“Our mission was to tell the soldiers’ story in southern Kandahar, the former home of the Taliban,” said Maj. Frank Analla, the commander of the 20 soldiers that made up the detachment. “We had four provinces that we maintained and provided coverage to, we embedded with more than about five or six combat elements that were there, and we ran about 200 missions before we left.”

The soldiers worked with civilian journalists and provided photos and video for news organizations such as NBC, CNN and Fox News.

“We supported the media that came over from the United States as well,” said First Sgt. Mary L. Williams about assisting civilian journalist. “If a journalist wanted to come over and do a story related to what was going on there, we let them embed with the units. That was the pleasure of doing our jobs, getting to interact with individuals that wanted to tell the soldiers’ story.”

At the ceremony, Williams reflected on how the eight soldiers present were able to produce a good quantity and quality journalism, and of how great it felt to be home.

The soldiers of the detachment were decorated with military and journalistic awards for fulfilling their duties. The awards include three Bronze Stars, two Combat Action Ribbons and one Purple Heart.

One soldier, Sgt. Clay Beyersdorfer, was named the Keith L. Ware Print Journalist of the Year.

“Every year the Department of Defense actually holds a competition for individuals in the public affairs career field,” Beyersdorfer said. “It is broadcast, print or photography, and it is like the best of the best. You submit your portfolio, and it is overseen by a panel of judges, and they either like you or they don’t. I was really lucky this year, I am very lucky.”

Beyersdorfer also attributed his award-winning journalism and his professionalism to his leaders.

The detachment has to now undergo yellow ribbon training before they are duty free. That training is designed to help them cope with the hardships of war they witnessed and to refresh them with life while stateside.

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