'Sky Dragon' ACE Soldiers return from year-long deployment
October 5, 2011
Fort Bragg, N.C. -- After a long year away from friends, family and spouses, the first group of Soldiers from XVIII Airborne Corps Headquarters returned to the clear, blue skies of the "Home of the Airborne and Special Opertation Forces" Oct. 5.
Flyers, banners, smiling faces of children and cheering filled the air as the Soldiers arrived at Green Ramp, Pope Field. About 60 Soldiers from the Corps' Analysis and Control Element (ACE) group were welcomed back home to Fort Bragg after a 12-month deployment in Iraq.
"On behalf of Lt. Gen. Helmick, Command Sgt. Maj. Rice, Fort Bragg community, the state of North Caroina and a grateful nation, welcome home and thanks for a job well done," said Maj. Gen. Rodney O. Anderson, Deputy Commanding General, XVIII Abn. Corps, as he spoke to the crowd.
Under 'Operation New Dawn', the XVIII Abn. Corps ACE served as the United States Forces - Iraq Headquarters' intelligence from October 2010 to October 2011, with its mission to gather, analyze and disseminate important information from a variety of sources in order to rebuild infrastructure of the country of Iraq.
With the challenges of being away from their loved ones, families expressed how they were able to maintain at home while their Soldiers were away for duty.
"We Skyped, emailed, and every now and then he could call us," Kayla Cawthorn, wife of Spc. Todd Cawthorn, an intelligence analyst with B Co., Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, XVIII Abn. Corps, "I'm super excited now to see him."
Cawthorn said that was the hardest part of the deployment was after her husband left to go back to Iraq after his Rest and Relaxation, especially with their two-year-old daughter, Lily Cawthorn.
Another excited family member was Luis Menendez, brother of Staff Sgt. Christine Menendez, an intelligence analyst with B Co., HHB, XVIII Abn. Corps, along with their father, drove 18 hours from Texas to N.C. to visit their Soldier.
Menendez said this was his sister's first deployment and he was glad that she made it home safe. "I'm going to give her a hug," he said, "I'm real excited, we're going to go to dinner tonight and then we have to head back home."
Soldiers came down the ramp with full smiles as they knew they were back home safe and sound.
"It feels amazing, I couldn't wait to get home," said Staff Sgt. Tristian Fraser, an intelligence analyst with B Co., HHB, XVIII Abn. Corps. "Later on today we're going to catch a football game with my son, then after that just spend some time with the family together."
This was Fraser's third deployment to Iraq and the progression in the country (Iraq) had changed a lot, he said.
Fraser said the mission for the ACE was good because of his section being able to set the tempo around the Iraq joint operation area.
After the Soldiers arrived and formed up, they were reunited with the ones they loved after a year away from home.
"To each member of the ACE and those you represent, thanks for your invaluable support of the mission in Iraq," said Anderson. "To the families; thanks for your love, prayers, and support. You have indeed accomplished the mission. Welcome home, you're now released to join your family, fall out!"