The Maine Army National Guard’s 133rd Engineer Battalion, whose 167 soldiers were deployed to Afghanistan last October, returned stateside this weekend, a Guard spokesman confirmed Monday.

Brig. Gen. James Campbell, adjutant general for the Gardiner- based Maine Guard, greeted the soldiers after they touched down Saturday at Fort Dix near Trenton, N.J.

“It was awesome and emotional to see our fellow soldiers come off that plane,” said Maj. Michael Steinbuchel, spokesman for the Maine Army National Guard, in an email message. “They are undergoing the demobilization process which consists of standard administrative records checks, re-integration briefings and medical checks.”

Although Steinbuchel said details of their return to Maine are not yet available, an Army spokesman at Fort Dix said demobilization typically takes a week or two.

The combat engineers, who are trained in construction techniques that are helpful in both battlefield and peacetime scenarios, were among the units responsible for winding down America’s longest war, dismantling forward operating bases and transporting heavy equipment in the sprawling, war-torn nation.

The unit garnered headlines and was the subject of speculation in April, when the Portland Press Herald reported on a plan by high-level Guard officials to trade the 133rd to Pennsylvania in exchange for an infantry battalion.

The trade would occur by about 2015, and would be part of a larger restructuring of the entire U.S. military.

Engineer units are generally sought-after by states’ governors for their construction skills, which are directly applicable in civilian settings. In Maine through its training exercises, the 133rd has been responsible for constructing and renovating YMCA summer camps, building athletic fields, nature trails, municipal sand and salt sheds and rural fairgrounds.

During natural disasters, the unit’s heavy equipment expertise has been used to clear washed-out roads, clean up damage from severe storms, and perform other emergency functions. In addition to teaching real-world skills, engineers offer significant advancement opportunities for women not found in combat-oriented units, such as infantry.

Following publication of the story about the plan to swap the battalion, former Maine Guard leaders came out against any move of the engineers, and for weeks, state and Guard officials differed on what would come next for the 133rd.

Gov. Paul LePage, the commander-in-chief of the Maine National Guard, repeatedly insisted that no decision had been made, nor would one be made for years, and in a news conference in May said the final authority to approve any military restructuring is for Congress to decide.

Campbell and LePage also laid blame for the possible swap at the feet of the Obama administration, which has ordered a top-to-bottom assessment of military forces following more than a decade at war, including likely reductions in troop strength across all branches.

Neither LePage nor Campbell has resolved conflicts between LePage’s statements that any transfer is still years away and an email that Campbell sent in April to Maine’s congressional delegation saying the move is set for 2015.

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