209th ALT returns: Wiesbaden-based Reserve Soldiers return home from Iraq
May 8, 2009
WIESBADEN, Germany - Soldiers of the 209th Army Liaison Team wrapped up a successful tour of duty in Iraq and were welcomed home May 5 in Wiesbaden. The U.S. Army Reserve Europe-based 209th spent about 12 months in Baghdad providing a variety of critical support for the mission.
The Wiesbaden-based unit, part of the 7th Civil Support Command based in Kaiserslautern, worked with the Multi National Forces-Iraq. Including pre-deployment and post-deployment the 26 reserve Soldiers were deployed for 400 days.
"We did a lot of stuff," said 209th commander Lt. Col Steven Zephir. "We provided a personal security detail for the director of the Combined International Operation, liaison to the Iraqi military and provided staff augmentation."
"We spent the first half there in the Green Zone," said staff officer Maj. Ralph Groves of the deployment. "We spent the second half at Victory Base on the outskirts of Baghdad near the international airport at the Al-Faw Palace."
"There was always the danger of the enemy firing at us in the international zone," said Groves. "The guys in the security detail were in the red zone and they had some close calls with improvised explosive devices."
Since the unit was right in the middle of things Groves said they hosted some very important visitors, including a couple of U.S. presidents. "I shook President Bush's hand. It was after the election," said Groves. "I shook President Obama's hand. He was very charismatic. It was like meeting a celebrity."
The 209th's duties providing staff augmentation brought them into contact with plenty of brass as well. "I was in briefings with four-star Gen. (Raymond) Odierno, the commander of the MNF-I," said Groves. "I met him a lot."
In a ceremony at the Wiesbaden Fitness Center that was attended by family and friends, members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the USO, Col. Ben Loney, speaking on behalf of the 7th CSC, expressed the "thanks of a grateful nation" for the service of the 209th. Loney praised the love and support of the Soldiers' families and then told them to "enjoy this time of reunion."
The Soldiers will spend some downtime reintegrating with families and friends and will then move on to their next assignment. Zephir said their next mission will likely take the 209th to Romania where they will be supporting exercises in December.
For Groves it will be a full schedule. "All my kids want me to do something with them,' said Groves. "One wants to go to see a soccer game, another wants to go to the beach and another one wants to go fishing," Groves said with a smile indicating he was looking forward to the time with his loved ones.