FORT WAINWRIGHT, AK, UNITED STATES
FORT WAINWRIGHT, Alaska— In a dimly lit hangar here April 22, friends and families gathered anxiously awaiting the arrival of more than 300 Arctic Wolves soldiers returning from a yearlong deployment in Southern Afghanistan.
About 22 miles away at Eielson Air force Base, those soldiers impatiently made their way down a runway leading into small area filled with various stations to in-process each soldier.
Shortly after 5 p.m., the two groups were reunited at the hangar.
Leading the way for the Arctic Wolves were Col. Todd R. Wood, commander of the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division and Command Sgt. Maj. Bernie Knight.
The 1-25th command group marched alongside the large formation of soldiers as the crowd frantically waved their welcome home signs and cheered.
“I’m excited, overwhelmed…. It’s been a long year,” said CleAnn Perkins, wife of Sgt. Maurice Perkins, 5th Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, 1-25th. “I’m glad to get everything back to normal.”
Sitting not far from Perkins, Cheryl Boothe and her two kids, Preston and Vaella, waved two large purple signs while wearing matching shirts, symbolizing a love that began when Cheryl met her husband, Cpl. Charles Boothe, 1st Battalion, 5th Infantry Regiment, at Kansas State University.
“Thank goodness!” Cheryl said, referring to her husband’s return. “The kids are anxious to have their dad back.”
Cheryl said she doesn’t have a “honey-do” list for Charles, but instead said she will focus all her time on ensuring the kids get to enjoy having their dad back.
Preston, 8, said he is excited to play football with his dad and teach him how to play the latest video games.
The families weren’t the only ones excited for the return.
“It’s been overwhelming,” said Lt. Col. David Raugh, commander of the 5th Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment. “I’m extremely happy to be able to come home… can’t beat the return.”
It was 364 days since Lt. Col. Raugh deployed and he used the homecoming as an opportunity to thank his wife Cynthia, attributing his success in Afghanistan to her support.
“My wife kept me sane,” Raugh said, sharing a tender glance with his wife. “I love her just as much as I did when I met her.”
The return of the brigade’s command group signaled the completion of its mission in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and came just days after the unit officially transferred authority of the Panjwa’I district to the 3rd Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division.
Throughout the deployment the Arctic Wolves conducted missions alongside their Afghan counterparts in an effort to bring peace and stability to a known Taliban stronghold by defeating the insurgency and handing the area over to Afghan security forces.
Their efforts proved to be successful as the local Afghan National Security Forces conducted multiple combat operations without the help of International Security Assistance Forces for the first time in the history of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.
“The success of the brigade was overwhelming,” 5-1st Cav. Command Sgt. Maj. Joseph McFarlane said.
McFarlane said although the unit’s success on the battlefield was remarkable, it is important to cherish the opportunity to return home, while remembering those who gave their all.
Although the reception ceremony signaled mission complete for the Arctic Wolves, the homecoming ceremonies will continue until later this week.
The brigade’s ranks are scheduled to be full by May 1.
(To follow the soldiers’ return, friends and family members are encouraged to check out the Stryker Brigades social media websites. https://www.facebook.com/1SBCT25ID
||FORT WAINWRIGHT, AK, US
||FAIRBANKS, AK, US
||KANSAS CITY, KS, US
This work, Mission Complete: Arctic Wolves return home, by SSG Thomas Duval, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.