Combat Soldiers Return
Staff Sgt. Tom Doll reunites with his 20-month-old son, Jason, at Fort Richardson's Buckner Physical Fitness Center Monday morning during C Company, 84th Engineer Battalion's homecoming. The unit, U.S. Army Alaska's first to deploy twice to Iraq, completed construction projects around Baghdad.

U.S. Army Alaska's only unit to deploy twice to Iraq is back again.

C Company, 84th Engineer Battalion's 129 Soldiers walked into Fort Richardson's Buckner Physical Fitness Center Monday morning after a year's duty near Baghdad.

C Co. deployed in January 2004 to Balad, Iraq, returning in January 2005. Approximately half of the unit remained from the first deployment, providing newcomers with experience on working in theater.

Like two years ago, the combat engineers spent their time deployed completing a variety of construction projects.

"We repaired roads that were damaged by (improvised explosive devices), constructed the Baghdad security perimeter and built entry control points between Sadr City and Baghdad," said 1st Lt. Kurt Schaaf. "We also renovated some buildings and repaired an airfield."

One of their last projects, Schaaf said, was stopped because insurgent activity related to Ramadan prevented supplies from getting to the unit, which was based out of Victory Base Complex at Baghdad International Airport.

When work stopped toward the end of the deployment, Brandy Hobson noticed her husband's attitude improved greatly.

"Three weeks ago they (stopped) working (and) signed over to the other unit. Before that, they were working really heavy shifts," she said of Spc. Brian Hobson.

"The morale wasn't so high but then all of the sudden, he was all excited. After (their) work was over, he was so much happier," she added.

Fort Richardson is the Hobson's first duty station, and this was their first deployment.

"At first it was really bad, you're terrified," Brandy said. "Once you get over the fact that they could die, you think 'I'm lonely ... he's lonely.' After that, you just get used to it.

"But it makes me feel really proud. (They did) something really good."

She and Victoria Wolfe, wife of Spc. Clarence Wolfe, were buddies for the year and sat together in anticipation of C Company's arrival at around 8:45 a.m. The Wolfe's 7-month-old daughter, Allie, was waiting to see her father.

"He's been happy he's coming; he wants to see his baby, he misses her," Victoria said. "She was born a day after he was home on leave. She (decided) it was time (to be born)."

Sgt. 1st Class Keith Gholston was another happy engineer reuniting with his wife, Terry, and three kids.

"I'm just so glad to see my family," he said. "It's like (they're) a new family because when I left they were this tall and now they're (much taller). I'm glad to see them, glad to be back."

Page last updated Wed December 13th, 2006 at 10:28