News: It's home sweet home — Spouse shares joy, father recounts son's brush with IED attack
Story by Maj. Deanna Bague
Hundreds of Texas Army National Guardsmen from the 56th Infantry Brigade Combat Team continued their return home this weekend from their nine-month deployment. Among the returnees were members of 3rd Battalion, 133rd Field Artillery Regiment, a unit based out of El Paso.
"Once you're back in Texas, you're home," said Lt. Col. Richard Blair, battalion commander of the 3-133rd FA Regt. "I'm really proud of the job the Soldiers did. It's been a great experience and I'm never going to forget it."
The Guardsmen were welcomed home by family members and friends who were waiting anxiously at the Departure/Arrival Airfield Control Group at Biggs Army Airfield for their arrival. Lizeth, the wife of Spc. Adam Ortiz of the 3-133rd FA Regt., was full of emotion as she and her two children, 7year-old Ashley and 1-year-old Adam D. saw Ortiz deplane.
"I couldn't go to sleep," Lizeth said. "We hardly slept because we were so excited. We are going to invite family from out of town and host a party [to celebrate] his arrival."
Liseth said she is grateful for the support she received from her family readiness group leader Angelique Lopez who kept her informed about her husband's deployment. Lopez's proactive stance in providing family members constant details about the Guardsmen's wellbeing while in Iraq helped her address her children's anxieties that they experienced from her husband's absence.
"She kept me updated," said Lizeth. "She would call me [and] text me; she was real nice to me."
The Smith family awaited the return of two loved ones — a father and son who served together in Iraq. Staff Sgt. Raul Smith and his son Raul Jr., said the experience was equally rewarding for both.
"I think it's something unique," said Smith. "Not many fathers get to have the pleasure of seeing the fruits of their labor. I was very proud of him."
Raul Jr. had just returned from a previous deployment three months earlier, so he waived his two-year stabilization to deploy with his father a month later.
"I was pretty excited," said Raul Jr. "I didn't think I would get a chance to serve in something so grand as deploying to Iraq with someone like my father. It was fulfilling."
Smith faced one of the mostly feared occurrences in theater. His son was involved in an improvised explosive device attack. Smith was in the tactical operations center when a fellow Soldier asked about his son.
"He asked me, 'Have you heard from your son?' And I said, 'No what happened,' he said, 'Oh, well his vehicle got hit this morning,'" recalled Smith. "In the interim of finding out what went on — the first thing [one thinks] is of course, oh my gosh, I'm going to have to call home. But fortunately he came out OK. Coming back home helps you to appreciate that much more, what we have here."
The 3-133rd FA was designated as Task Force Defender while serving as part of the 56th IBCT in Iraq. The task force comprised 11 companies from the all over the state of Texas.
"You couldn't get much more diverse than what we had," said Blair. "I think the diversity of people and backgrounds that we had actually made us a stronger unit in the end."
Blair's unit performed traditional tactical missions such as convoy operations, but as time elapsed, the Guardsmen became more involved in civil-military operations. Some of the good will projects included providing assistance to schools. Throughout the tour, Iraqi participation increased in carrying out the CMO missions, said Blair.
"We always had toward the end an Iraqi presence, whether it was the Iraqi police or the Iraqi army," said Blair.The Iraqis demonstrated enthusiasm in performing humanitarian missions and were able to see the benefits as well, he said.
This work, It's home sweet home — Spouse shares joy, father recounts son's brush with IED attack, by LTC Deanna Bague, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.