By Jim HughesOctober 9, 2008
ANSBACH, Germany -- "Magnificent!"
That's the word used by Col. Timothy Edens, 12th Combat Aviation Brigade commander, to sum up the performance of the unit's Soldiers during their 15-month deployment to Iraq.
Homecoming ceremonies from August to the end of September brought home to Ansbach almost 3,500 Soldiers who deployed last summer.
"Great! Stupendous! Wonderful! I mean, pick any positive word and that is how we all feel-very, very good," Edens said about being home upon his return Sept. 25. "It's been a real treat to see the looks on the Soldiers' faces as they walk in here getting ready to see their families again. It's a great day!"
But before the happy homecomings, there were challenges aplenty for Ansbach's heroes--including issues with logistics and maintenance -- but in true Griffin fashion, they were all overcome, Edens said.
"Just good old fashioned hard work, ingenuity and teamwork," the colonel said. "The one thing besides the fact that we got them all home that I'm most proud about is the absolute team spirit that just permeates the whole 12th CAB.
"Challenges' Yes, there were many," the colonel added. "But they were met and defeated in detail by this great outfit. I couldn't be more proud of the 12th CAB Soldiers."
With two of the R4 complete-redeployment and reintegration-reconstitution (equipment repair) and retraining are up next for CAB Soldiers.
"Retraining to get ready for the next deployment--which we think is in the nearer future than what we formerly anticipated," Edens said. "We told the families that about a month ago--telling them it looks like the next deployment has been accelerated. But we still have at least 12 months, and in most cases more, at home station with our families. It'll probably be post-January when the training really starts to form up and take hold."
Such is life in today's Army: deploy, come home, rest a bit, train up and deploy again. But for the most part, CAB Soldiers are maintaining positive attitudes despite the challenging times, Edens said.
"It's euphoria right now -- everyone's happy to be home," he said. "I think there is a certain amount of 'it's hard to believe' that we were able to pull off 15 months with no casualties -- either from the enemy or accidents-we're very, very proud of that.
"There's also a degree of 'What's next'' We are a deployed Army and it is the same people deploying over and over again," Edens continued. "So, some of them are asking hard questions (about life in the Army)."
And the concerns are valid, he admits.
"People are on their third or fourth deployments, so the facts are there and the jury is out-these are deployable times," he said. "For those deciding that perhaps they have had enough of the Army, I would say 'Thank you,' and I mean it sincerely. I'd rather they stay and continue to fight and train together, but, you know, they've given and I thank them for it. Stick it out with the Army, the 12th CAB and USAREUR -- it's a great way to live and serve.
"But by and large, I think they like being on the U.S. Army Europe and 12th CAB team-they like this community, they're proud of this community, they take ownership for a lot of things going on here that are positive. Money is starting to flow and things are happening at Ansbach."
Edens' thoughts are proven through a non-battlefield distinction the unit earned while deployed.
"This was the first unit in USAREUR and the first unit in OIF to meet 100 percent of its retention goals--over a thousand Soldiers re-upped while downrange," he said. "That speaks volumes for not just the career counselors, but for leadership in the CAB.
From the battalion commander and sergeants major down to first line supervisors-they all took a keen interest in keeping quality Soldiers in our formation and it paid off. We kept them in the Army and we kept them alive."
And now is not the time for that to change, Edens added. He said many Soldiers will want to blow off some steam after the long deployment, but he and Command Sgt. Maj. H. Lee Kennedy met with every CAB Soldier not on duty or on detail to tell them to be careful.
"Continue to be vigilant--take care of one another," he said to the Soldiers. "You did it in combat--there is no excuse for not doing it in peace time in the garrison environment.
"Will there be some who push that and exceed that' Absolutely--I think it is human nature," Edens added. "But I think we will see that 12th CAB Soldiers in large measure will step up and take responsibility for their actions and take care of one another."
The commander also acknowledged that some Soldiers might need help after the constant stresses of deployment.
"We encourage Soldiers to get help-not just for post-traumatic stress disorder, but also marriage issues or personal problems," he said. "Get help-it is out there. You have to be of sound mind-we have to have you there. If the way to get that is to see a doctor or other helping agency, then take care of it. We need healthy Soldiers in formation-and families. Families need help too."
And while many families are busy reuniting, the families and Soldiers of the 3-159th Aviation Regiment are dealing with separation. That unit replaced its sister unit, the 2-159th, in August.
"That switch over went perfectly," Edens said. "I know those Soldiers will do a great job in Iraq, and I know the CAB and the garrison will do a great job taking care of the families."
Edens concluded with kind words for those who supported the CAB from Germany.
"Thanks to the great U.S. Army Garrison Ansbach team, the local German communities and our families--families have contributed at least 50 percent to the success of this brigade," he said. "It is absolutely firm in my mind that we were successful because we were not worried about our families -- we were able to focus and concentrate on the mission at hand knowing that Lt. Col Guy Zero (rear detachment commander), the rear detachments and the FRGs (family readiness groups) all had the home fires burning and everything was going to be OK."