News: Soldiers return to handshakes, embraces
Story by Spc. Reese Von Rogatsz
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. – Nearly 200 soldiers from 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, entered the troop-holding area at McChord Field to resounding cheers and applause of fellow Raiders, as they returned home after a seven-month deployment to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, June 1.
A line of hands, stretched forward in welcome, turned to handshakes of greeting as soldiers walked off the plane, crossed the tarmac and stepped inside the building.
Sgt. Anthony Dekargai, team leader with 38th Engineer Company, 4th SBCT, 2nd ID, scanned the incoming faces for members of his unit.
“I wanted to let (the soldiers) know that no matter the situation, we’re stronger than what it is,” said Dekargai, as he leaned on a cane, recovering from extensive injuries received when his Stryker came under attack from an enemy improvised explosive device, Dec. 29, 2012.
“I lost a soldier that day,” he continued, remembering Pfc. Markie T. Sims, a 38th Engineer Company combat engineer, who died of wounds caused by the IED during a critical mission to clear a primary route for ground forces in Panjwa’i district, Afghanistan.
According to Dekargai, time spent with his team was the most memorable part of his two months downrange. He recalls the simple good times they shared: eating meals at the dining facility, working out at the gym, or simply hanging out as buddies, friends, and brothers-in-arms.
And the bad times, too. Dekargai was also a close friend of Staff Sgt. Rayvon Battle Jr., a 38th Engineer Company squad leader, who lost his life in the first month of the deployment.
No matter how hard things got, it was important for me to be able to tell my team that it’s going to be OK, Dekargai said, summing up his leadership philosophy.
After completion of administrative details and turn-in of sensitive equipment, returning Raiders were transported to Soldiers Field House for the homecoming ceremony. A motorcade comprised of members from a Washington state chapter of the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association escorted the troops to their destination and proudly carried the nation’s flag for the proceedings.
Families and friends were finally reunited with their loved ones after a separation of more than half a year. Brass instruments played by the I Corps Band added energy to the already charged atmosphere. It was a scene of joy and celebration for Raider soldiers, families, and teams.
The returning Raiders were part of Combined Task Force 4-2, which is responsible for providing security force assistance as Afghan National Security Forces conduct wide-area security operations.
The CTF 4-2 also provides support to the government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan as it strengthens governance efforts to neutralize threats to stability, retain and expand security gains and facilitate transition to follow-on forces.
The early redeployment of soldiers is part of an overall plan to withdraw 34,000 service members by February 2014, as announced by President Obama in his 2013 State of the Union address. As the Afghan National Security Forces increasingly take the lead for the security of their country, military personnel, including soldiers from 4th SBCT, 2nd ID will re-deploy back to JBLM in the coming months.