News: Halfway there
Story by Staff Sgt. Matthew Winstead
JOINT BASE ELMENDORF RICHARDSON, Alaska - Friends and families of the six battalions that comprise the 4th Airborne Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division gathered at Cottonwood Park May 31 to mark the halfway point of their loved ones' Afghanistan deployment.
Coordinated by a combination of the brigade's rear detachment leadership, key leaders of the brigade family readiness group and many volunteers, the day marked the unit's accomplishments during their time away.
The celebration also aimed to provide the families back home a fun way to relax.
The event featured several bouncy houses, displays from JBER police and fire departments, games, face painting and even a small spa where wives could get their hands and arms massaged while their children enjoyed the activities.
Among the attractions was a JBER Fire Prevention Services fire engine, which the children were allowed to play on.
"We were really happy to be able to come support this operation today," JBER Firefighter Ryan Sharr said.
The base fire department also provided a fire safety simulation house where several hazardous situations can be simulated under a controlled setting. Events like safe smoke in a bedroom, kitchen and even a "hot door" which can be used to indicate danger in the form of hidden fire can be simulated to educate children on the dangers of house fires.
There were burgers and hot dogs and door prize giveaways including flat screen TVs and car-detailing packages.
There was one more surprise in store for the gathered crowd.
Col. Morris T. Goins, the commander of the 4-25th ABCT, had managed to quietly return home on leave in time for the mid-tour celebration to attend the celebration as a guest speaker much to the joy of the surprised guests.
"We wanted to keep his presence at the celebration as quiet as possible just in case he got delayed or wasn't able to make it home in time," Yolanda Goins said, of her husband's return.
But with the commander present and able to address members of the crowd on a one-on-one basis the mood was both festive and motivated. The positive attitude of the gathering was clearly visible when Goins took to the microphone and his voice boomed across the park as he addressed the families of his soldiers as the meal line was opened.
The commander met with families one-on-one and addressed the crowd.
"On the behalf of all the men and women still deployed to Afghanistan under my command, I just want to say thank you, Col. Goins said. "Thank you for this event and thank you for all of the support you show on a regular basis."
Goins went on to express additional thanks toward the families for their support and credited some of the significant accomplishments of his unit to the unwavering commitment they constantly show without fail day in and day out.
"Since our arrival in Afghanistan the paratroopers of 4-25 have put away more bad guys and uncovered more caches than any other brigade in [Regional Command] East," he said.
After expressing additional thanks to the families in attendance, Goins invited them to continue to enjoy the food and events provided before giving them one last surprise.
In addition to being able to attend the event in person during his personal leave time back home Goins also volunteered to hop into the dunk tank and let some of the children toss tennis balls at the target to drop him into the vat.
With their spirits visibly high and several commanders and leaders dripping wet, the families continued to enjoy the celebration that had been provided and readied themselves for the last half of the deployment.
Goins bid farewell in his closing remarks, looking forward to the unit's homecoming.
"Airborne -- and we'll see you on the high ground," he said.