Fort Riley troops ready to get home after year in Iraq
January 29, 2011
CAMP TAJI, Iraq - It's Friday in Iraq, but Spc. Correy Jackson can't remember the last time that meant much.
Jackson, a 21-year-old native of Oakland, Calif., is one of about 3,000 Soldiers deployed with the Enhanced Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, who for the last year have worked nearly every weekday and weekend alike.
The brigade deployed from Fort Riley, Kan., last March, and has since flown about 115,000 flight hours, transported more than 250,000 personnel and 8 million pounds of cargo around the country.
But it's not these statistics that Soldiers like Jackson are watching. An incoming unit is scheduled to replace the brigade this spring, and they are counting the weeks and days that stand between them and home.
"Stepping off the plane, smelling fresh air - I can't wait," said Jackson. Like many Soldiers, Jackson said he misses the "simple pleasures," that are foreign to Iraq.
"Just being able to walk outside in civilian clothes, to drive to the store if I need something, that's the little things we look forward to," he said.
Spc. Manuel Ortiz deployed with the unit once before in 2007. For him, it's a new mission and another countdown. This time, Ortiz looks forward to reuniting with his wife, whom he married three months before leaving.
"Being married has made it harder and easier," he said. "Either way I can't wait; we get our place, be together."
The brigade still has a good deal of work ahead of it prior to its return. Serving as the only aviation brigade in Iraq, it is responsible for an area that was previously supported by three aviation brigades. In addition to mandatory redeployment briefings, classes and paperwork, the brigade's return home is a mission in itself.
But it's simple to Spc. Jason Sulser. "All I've got to say," he said, "is tell me when it's time to go."