Westphal welcomes Devil Brigade home
Specialist Stanley L. Hurley 1st Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, hugs his wife, Lauren shortly after the July 30, "Welcome Home" ceremony at the Pope Air Force Base Green Ramp. "After waiting a year, the last few minutes were forever," she said.

FORT BRAGG, N.C. - The Army\'s chief management officer joined friends and Family members July 30, welcoming Devil Brigade Soldiers home at a Pope Air Force Base's Green Ramp ceremony, after a year-long deployment to Iraq. "I was thrilled to watch it and be a part of it," said Joseph P. Westphal, the under secretary of the Army, shortly after 334 Soldiers from different elements of the 82nd Airborne Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team marched with a nine-Soldier front across the tarmac to the throng of friends and Family members waiting at the hangar. Westphal, who was accompanied by Maj. Gen. Rodney O. Anderson, the XVIII Airborne Corps deputy commanding general, shook hands with every trooper leaving the plane and said it touched his heart to see the Soldiers look for their loved ones waiting at the edge of the runway, but still maintained their military bearing. "They looked at their Families, but they were still Soldiers greeting me with a 'thank you, sir' or 'airborne,'" he said. During its deployment to Operation Iraqi Freedom, the Devil Brigade worked to build the civil capacity of the Iraqi government through its performance of the Army's advise and assist mission in Iraq's Anbar province. The province was the birthplace of the Sunni Awakening and upon their transfer of partnership to the Devils, the last Iraqi battlespace controlled by Marines. Westphal praised the brigade's execution of the AAM in his remarks after the ceremony. "Not only did they contribute to our effort there, but they contributed to our understanding of the mission," he said. "What these Soldiers bring back with them will help us think about how we can do it better." For the Soldiers the ceremony was not quite the end of the mission. After a brief welcoming program, the Devils were released to the throng for about 15 to 20 minutes. Then, they were recalled to formation and marched off onto white buses waiting outside, so they could be taken to the turn-in point for their weapons and sensitive items. When one sergeant major was done explaining the process to some troopers on the tarmac, he took a breath and pleaded, "Just bear with us and you'll be drinking beer in four hours." Spc. Stanley L. Hurley, 1st Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, while holding his wife Lauren, said waiting to leave the airliner after it landed was torture. "I was just like, please, just let me off of the plane," said Hurley. When he said the march to the hangar took two minutes, but seemed like 10 minutes, his wife agreed. "After waiting a year, the last few minutes were forever," she said. "It was great," said Kayme E. Beverly after her husband, Sgt. Robert N. Beverly Jr., 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, Beverly, left for the buses after their short reunion. The brief time together was the first time her husband had seen their daughter, Bella, since she was six-days-old when he returned to the theater at the end of his mid-deployment leave. "He said: 'You look beautiful. I missed you. I love you.' Then, he looked at Bella and said: 'Hey, little girl.'" Army spouse Jennifer B. Hansen said her day began at 5 a.m., when she got the call that her husband, Staff Sgt. Barrett B. Hansen, 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, would be arriving that day. Jennifer said she drove north for the homecoming, from their hometown of Lexington, S.C., along with her mother and her husband's parents.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16