BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Lieutenant Colonel Brian Zdunowski returned home to his Eastern Shore farm last week after nine months away.

“The honey-do list just got longer and longer and longer,” he joked via Zoom Wednesday.

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The senior operations officer for the Maryland Army National Guard’s 58th Expeditionary Military Intelligence Brigade flew into Salisbury last week with two other citizen-soldiers after a mission in Afghanistan.

Credit: Maryland National Guard

“Knock on wood, during our deployment, we had zero U.S. or coalition forces killed in action,” LTC Zdunowski said.

More than 130 members of the 58th Brigade and the 629th Expeditionary Military Intelligence Battalion are now back statewide. They “provided intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance support,” according to National Guard Public Affairs.

This was LTC Zdunowski’s fourth deployment and first to Afghanistan, in support of what has been known since 2014 as Operation Inherent Resolve. He described a difficult preparation and deployment in efforts to adapt to the pandemic.

“(It was a) really hard train-up, and when you throw COVID on top of it, it made it not impossible, but incredibly challenging.” LTC Zdunowski, 49, said.

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He says the training leading up to the mission was virtual. Sit-down eating was prohibited. Morale events were canceled. Gatherings were limited. He was able to regularly chat with his family.

Homecomings at airports last week were largely private and small.

LTC Zdunowski rejoined the military after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. His son joined the National Guard while he was in Afghanistan and starts basic training in July.

“In the Guard, not incredibly unusual to have families serving with families, but I look forward to coming off leave and serving with him,” LTC Zdunowski said.

He says he was focused on the mission, but noticed his fellow citizen soldiers at the Maryland National Guard back home distributing food, administering vaccines, and protecting the U.S. Capitol.

“They looked about as busy as we were on the deployment,” LTC Zdunowski said.

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Paul Gessler