News>Airborne brigade redeploys in numbers after 10-month Afghanistan deployment
Army Capt. Sally Somoza welcomes her husband Army Capt. Antonio Somoza at the Buckner Physical Fitness Center on JBER Sept. 27 after a 10-month deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Sally Somoza is a member of the 793rd Military Police Battalion. Antonio Somoza is one of 300 members of the 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division who returned home on the first main body flight. Their hometown is Richmond, Va. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Robert Barnett)
Army Capt. Sally Somoza, far right, waits with family to welcome home her husband Army Capt. Antonio Somoza at the Buchner Physical Fitness Center on JBER Sept. 27 after a 10-month deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Sally Somoza is a member of the 793rd Military Police Battalion. Antonio Somoza is one of 300 members of the 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division who returned home on the first main body flight. Their hometown is Richmond, Va. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Robert Barnett)
Katie Medina waits with her son, Anthony, 2, for her husband, Army Staff Sgt. Mark Medina's return Sept. 27 at the Buckner Physical Fitness Center on JBER Sept. 27 after a 10-month deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Medina is one of 300 members of the 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division that returned home that day. Katie is the 1-40 Cavalry Family Readiness Group leader, considered a resource for families. Her hometown is Stanford, Ky. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Robert Barnett)
Ericka Chavez, left, and Amanda Shaw, right, wait to welcome home their husbands Army Staff Sgt. Padro Chavez and Cpl. Justin Shaw, respectively, at the Buckner Physical Fitness Center on JBER Sept. 27 after a 10-month deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Chavez and Shaw are two of the 300 members of the 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division that returned home on the first main body flight. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Robert Barnett)
Many of the nearly 300 members of the 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division hold flowers for their loved ones while waiting to be released to their families at the Buckner Physical Fitness Center on JBER Sept. 27. The troops returned home on the first main body flight after a 10-month deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Robert Barnett)
Army Col. William Miller, Army Maj. Daniel Enslen, and Army Master Sgt. Jeremy Marr welcome back the 4th Brigade Combat Team (airborne), 25th Infantry Division as they exit a plane on JBER Oct. 2. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Robert Barnett)
by Air Force Staff Sgt. Robert Barnett
JBER Public Affairs
10/9/2012 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- One might expect a fitness center to be empty just past midnight on a Thursday morning; but when the 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, is returning from deployment, wives and children were more than happy to do whatever it took to see their loved ones again.
"We got here at 2 a.m. and we started putting up signs," said Katie Medina, leader of the 1st Squadron (Airborne), 40th Cavalry Regiment Family Readiness Group homecoming chairman. "We're waiting for our husbands to get home. November 29 of 2011 is when they left; it's been 10 months."
Medina said she was practiced in preparing for his return.
"My biggest preparation for my husband coming home is probably grocery shopping," Medina said. "Getting back to the normal routine of cooking and picking up after a man, and the laundry; getting back to the routine of life. When he gets here he's going to want to be a man again, so I dusted off the stuff in the man cave and dusted off the Xbox, got Netflix back on."
While both Katie and her husband, Army Staff Sgt. Mark Medina, have been through deployments before, this one held some significance for them both.
"This is my husband's first time coming home to a son," the Stanford, Ky., native explained. "He's never been able to do that before; he's always come home to his parents, or me, or nobody. It's not easy; you just do what you've got to do as a spouse. This is significant for him, and it's emotional for me because this is the first time he'll return to our two-year-old son. I've never seen a son go to his dad, so I'm very excited to see him. He knows his voice and he knows his picture, so when he sees him it's going to be really excited."
Army Col. Mark Davis, deputy chief of staff for U.S. Army Alaska, was the commanding officer welcoming the troops home.
"This is the return of one of the main body flights of 4-25th ABCT from Afghanistan," said Davis. "I think it was 296 paratroopers that returned home today. We just say a few words because what's really on everyone's mind is reuniting the families with their Soldiers, and then this is the first place they come back together again after their 10 month, 12 month long deployment.
"The good thing about going home is you get to reunite with family," said Command Sgt. Maj. Terry Gardner, senior enlisted advisor to the brigade. "That's a key thing. I'll be happy to just get home and reunite with the wife and family."
Many of the spouses waiting for their loved ones were experiencing their first deployment.
"It's crazy," said Jordan Karg, a housewife and native of Clarion, Pa. "What's happening here is something I've never experienced in my life, like this is the best experience in the world. My husband is coming home right now. My best friend is finally going to be with me."
Karg said she missed her husband, and they took advantage of modern technology to keep their relationship strong.
"I've missed him," Karg said. "Even the stupid little things like if I heard a noise, or sleeping alone was the worst; just the little things. I constantly smell his deodorant, just because that's him. I keep in touch with him mostly on Facebook and Messenger. We did Skype a little bit but the Internet is so horrible. He called about once a week. We definitely kept the relationship alive that way."
As his wife, she said she knew what preparations to make for him coming home.
"The biggest step I've taken to get back into the routine is buying him the biggest case of beer I can find," she said. "And just having his truck ready, his garage ready, the beds freshly made, the little things that he missed; especially the beer."
The house wife said she understood why her husband had to go.
"His mission was to make sure we are safe back here," she said. "He knows that he has to do it, and it's just something he's grown up knowing that he wanted to do, was make sure we have our freedom, that we're safe at home."
As the troops come home, the spouses keep in mind deployments remain a very real fact.
"Once the rest of the brigade gets back, there will be a very large redeployment ceremony downtown in the Sullivan Arena," Davis said. "That'll be on the first of November. There'll be a 30-day period of leave for all the folks that were deployed. Then they'll come back and start retraining, re-equipping themselves and get ready for the next mission."
Karg said she accepted the probability of another deployment.
"If I were to do another deployment without the technology, it would be hard," she said. "We'd just end up using letters. And letters, it connects you because it's more personal because you can see his handwriting. It would just get those little butterflies going again."
"We want to share our heartfelt gratitude for the support," said Army Col. Morris Goins, 4-25 ABCT brigade commander. "Not only that we received in Anchorage but also the state of Alaska. I can honestly tell you there's been a boatload of boxes coming to us. Everything from sausage made from moose to cards that we put up in our morning post from children across Alaska, as well as across the country.
"I give a special thank you to the JBER family," he said, "knowing about their support on post and to our families that pray for us and send Skype messages and post things on Facebook. There's a warm reception and some of it is already received because we do have a few Soldiers that have arrived back to JBER. It's always fortunate to see Soldiers redeploying and the gratitude that folks in Alaska show us."
The commander said he is amazed by how much they achieved while deployed.
"What we've accomplished across the battle space has been phenomenal," he said. "We came in with a requirement to neutralize a specific group of bad guys. Through our partnership with the Army, the Afghan Uniformed Police, the Afghan Border Police, as well as their National Security Agency, we have been able to detain a lot of bad people that are against the role of government. We've also been able to facilitate budget expenditures between Paktika/Khost as well with our provincial reconstruction team.
"We've been able to leverage several classes for the Afghan Army, who is now actually teaching the Afghan Border Police, as well as the Afghan Uniformed Police in many different things such as medical training.
"Again, it's now Afghans training Afghans in the medical community, it's the Afghans training Afghans in using the mortar systems that the Afghan National Army has as well as the Afghan Border Police to include Afghans training Afghans in artillery procedures that includes logistics, so what we've been able to achieve has been phenomenal.
"The last number I remember is we had sent 101 people to prison and about 52 to Afghan prosecution and that's bad people that have been putting in improvised explosive devices and smuggling things into the country, so it's been a very phenomenal rotation for us both professionally and personally.
"Sergeant Major and I have had the opportunity over the past 10 months to watch America's finest do what America has asked us to do and that's to defend freedom and protect those that we don't even know. The ages of the Soldiers in this task force run from 17 or 18 years old to probably 70 years old. They always execute all their duties; it has been truly humbling to watch them. If you ever see a doctor that's in the military, give them a pat on the back, because we've had some of the best medical facilities and best doctors that the Army could provide us."
Goins said there will be some hurdles during reintegration.
"One of the challenges coming home," he said, "is just getting accustomed to being back home as opposed to working roughly 18 to 22 hours a day depending on what the requirements are, going back to a normal eight or nine hour day is kind of odd. There are many different challenges, obviously nothing that we can't overcome based on being at war as long as we have been."
The commander said he is extremely grateful for the support JBER, families and the community have provided.
"If it wasn't for JBER, there'd be no reintegration really. All the resources that we need are there on the installation," Goins said. "The installation has taken great care of this brigade since we arrived and stood up in 2005. The doctors will be back in the hospital making sure we're in good shape.
"As far as getting the rooms prepared for the soldiers when they get off the aircraft, the reception back into the barracks, as well as chaplains have programs that allow families to go off on retreats and do reintegration and the community has provided several different venues for families to begin the reintegration process as well to include some briefings that we have," he continued. "Not only the garrison at JBER but the community has provided many different outlets for the families, in some cases at no cost to the families to start that quality time and reintegration process that could take up several months."
Goins said none of their progress would have been possible without family support.
"While Soldiers do what Soldiers do, they are only as good as the support that they have at home," he said. "We often say that we can face whatever's in front of us as long as the family is in good shape behind us. They remain in good shape, so my hat's off to them. Not only as a Soldier, but as a father and a spouse, we truly want to tell them thank you for all the heart aches, all the lonely nights, all the worries that they have put up with, not only on this deployment, but on the many deployments they have suffered through.
"I want to tell them that publically, any time you see a military spouse, they don't receive a military award or a pat on the back for the most part," Goins elaborated. "They are the unsung hero of our nation and so to them, that will be a debt that our nation can never repay, so thank you so very much to the spouses of the military service member. It doesn't matter want branch, as long as you are a spouse of the Department of Defense, you're doing all our nation asks of you and then some.