Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.- .- The crowd is already buzzing with excitement, when a booming voice commands "Battalion, Attention!" The crowd explodes as the curtain slowly reveals the soldiers that have just returned to their family and friends.
Soldiers of the 5th Battalion, 5th Air Defense Artillery Regiment reunites with their family and friends after a nine-month deployment to Afghanistan and Iraq, at Wilson Fitness Center on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., July 17.
"This is a gracious moment, to see all of the families here to see their soldiers," said Command Sgt. Maj. Steve Hall, Sr., Command Sgt. Maj. of 5-5 ADA Regiment, "and I'm happy to bring our Dragon Slayers home, safe."
Over and over again the family members exclaimed how excited they were to have their soldiers back. Some of them, were excited because of a baby that the soldier hadn't meet, like Jamie Wolbersen.
She moved back home to St. Paul, Minn. while her husband, Spc. Darin Wolbersen, Jr., was in the Middle East. While in Minn., she had their first child, James.
"I'm super excited to have Darin back and can't wait to see his face when he meets his son for the first time," said Jamie. "We have talked over Skype, so he has seen him but he has never held him."
"We were able to have him on a live feed while the delivery was happening," said Sheryl Hazzard, Darin's mother. "But it isn't the same as holding your first child."
Then others, like Tasha McCracken, the wife of Cpt. Timothy McCracken, who were so overwhelmed with anticipation to have their husbands back, they couldn't say much more then "I'm sooooo excited" as she bubbles with joy.
The soldiers were just as excited at being home as the family members.
"This was my first deployment," said Timothy McCracken, "so everything seems to be such a surreal experience. Yet, I am so glad to see my wife and the rest of our family that made it here.
"It feels great to be home," said Sgt. 1st Class Justin Thacker, as he hold two of his girls firmly in his arms. "I'm happy that the deployment went well but i'm really glad to have my family back."
Their mission in Afghanistan and Iraq was to provide indirect fire protection against rockets, artillery and mortars, and defending critical assets in the Central Command area of operations.
"These soldiers in this unit have a mission that is critical overseas," said Command Sgt. Maj. Jerry Jacobitz, command sgt. maj. of 31st ADA Brigade. "Their mission is to protect people and save lives. They are a very valuable asset, to our leaders, to have in a battle."
5-5 ADA, which is a part of the 31st ADA Brigade at Ft. Sill, Okla. and attached to the 17th Field Artillery Brigade, here, was first constituted June 13, 1861 as Battery H, 5th Regiment of Artillery. Since their creation, they have been reorganized multiple times until Oct. 1, 2005, where they officially became 5-5 ADA and moved from Korea to Ft. Lewis, Wash.
Within their long history, they have been a part of the Civil War, World War II, Korean War and the War on Terrorism. This deployment being the third deployment in three years, is just another piece to add to their long service to the U.S. Army and the Nation. Yet it also signifies their last mission, here on JBLM.
"5-5 ADA will be moving over the next few months, accumulating in Dec., from JBLM to Ft. Sill, Okla.," said Jacobitz. "They will be back with their parent brigade, 31st ADA brigade. The reason for this move is at Ft. Sill, the units are allowed to fire their weapon system on the same post. Whereas they really can't do that here."
Even before 5-5 ADA returned, a lot of progress had already been made in the transfer of equipment to Ft. Sill with the help of 308th Brigade Support Battalion. Now all that is left is the equipment pieces that were brought back with them.
With the colors back on JBLM and the soldiers safe at home, Command Sgt. Maj. Hall said it best, "We are the Dragon Slayer Battalion! Strike First! One Team!"