FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Soldiers of the 164th Theater Airfield Operations Group set foot on the soil of Fort Rucker for the first time in a year April 25.

The 41 Soldiers were welcomed home at a ceremony where Family and friends waited anxiously to wrap their arms around them.

"I am excited daddy is coming home, I am going to give him a big hug," said Alexandria Lawless, 7, daughter of Staff Sgt. John E. Lawless.

Maj. Gen. Anthony G. Crutchfield, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker commanding general, welcomed the troops home, as well.

"I am so happy you are home and very proud of what you have done," he said. "You reflect a level of professionalism our Army and our branch needs. A piece of our Family was missing for a year and it left a hole in our heart. Today the hole has been filled."

The brigade headquarters deployed in April 2010 to Kuwait as part of the U.S. Army Central Command, commanding and controlling battalions across Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan. The brigade was also responsible for all fixed wing, rotary wing and medical evacuation Aviation units assigned to USARCENT.

The work the unit performed over the last year in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn has had far reaching impacts on Army Aviation operations throughout the theater of operations, according to a memorandum from Lt. Col. Dennis Griffin, 164th TAOG deputy commanding officer.

"It has been a lot of work and we were busy up until the last minute," said Col. James R. Macklin Jr., 164th TAOG commander. "Morale was always really good and we stayed safe throughout the year, which was one of our major goals."

As the senior Aviation command in USARCENT, the 164th TAOG advised USARCENT on all Aviation operations, and U.S. Forces Afghanistan and U.S. Forces Iraq on all actions associated with air traffic services, to include air traffic controller training and certification and airfield management operations.

The 164th TAOG routinely provided air traffic control evaluators to train both U.S. Army and government contractor air traffic controllers - enhancing the operational capability of airfields throughout Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan. They assisted in planning a spectrum of Aviation operations, from humanitarian assistance missions and improved coverage for the medevac of casualties, to the eventual transition of airfields to Afghanistan's government and the drawdown operation in Iraq.

Once Soldiers were released from formation, Family members rushed to them in a tearful and joyful reunion.

"Thank you for this safe return, bless these Soldiers and Families, may they find a warm and restful homecoming," said Chaplain (Col.) Dennis Newton, garrison chaplain.

Page last updated Fri April 29th, 2011 at 10:18