By Spc. Jesus J. ArandaJanuary 22, 2010
SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii - The three flag poles standing side-by-side at the front of the 25th Infantry Division (ID) headquarters building, here, have remained bare for more than a year as the division's commanding general led "Tropic Lightning" Soldiers in Iraq.
Three red flags symbolizing the generals charged with leading the division's Soldiers and military personnel, two flags bearing one star and one flag bearing two stars, were proudly raised above each flag pole recently. The generals, and the men and women whom they led, are back home.
Soldiers returning from Iraq, family members and guests attended a redeployment ceremony at Sills Field, here, Nov. 19, to commemorate the return of more than 4,500 Tropic Lightning Soldiers serving with the 25th ID and other Hawaii-based supporting units with whom they deployed.
The ceremony honored Soldiers from the 25th ID Headquarters, the 25th Special Troops Battalion (STB), the 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team (IBCT) "Bronco," and other units that participated in the division's effort.
During their 12-month deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the Hawaii brigades, units and battalions joined several other brigades to make up Task Force Lightning (TFL).
These units provided technical, logistical and operational support to the Iraqi security forces operating within the Multinational Division-North (northern Iraq) area of operation.
"When Task Force Lightning deployed to northern Iraq, we assumed command and control of Multinational Division-North, an area nearly the size of the state of Ohio encompassing the seven northern-most provinces," said Maj. Gen. Robert Caslen Jr., commanding general, 25th ID and TFL, during his remarks at the redeployment ceremony.
The primary goal of TFL was to advise and assist local Iraqi army, Iraqi police and other security forces for the betterment of the region's safety and development.
"Our mission included improving the governance and economics of the seven provinces, training and advising the Iraqi security forces, providing security for the Iraqi people, and completing numerous reconstruction projects and enhancements to essential services," Caslen said.
Projects TFL assisted with included urban renewal and development, urban beautification, agricultural development, and educational aid to Iraqi children across the country.
Caslen applauded the service and results TFL achieved during its time in Iraq.
"These were no small tasks, but these tremendous Soldiers were magnificent, and you can be justly proud of what they have accomplished," Caslen said.
During the ceremony, Caslen joined Command Sgt. Maj. Frank Leota, 25th ID and TFL command sergeant major, in uncasing the division guidon for the first time on Hawaiian soil since its casing 12 months ago, on the same field, when the division deployed.
Lt. Gen. Benjamin Mixon, commanding general, U.S. Army-Pacific, praised the efforts and accomplishments made by the Soldiers and military personnel serving with TFL.
"Your efforts this past year bridged fundamental change as you transitioned to Iraqi lead," aid Mixon, in his remarks at the redeployment ceremony. "(You) supported operations in an organized, civil society where dialogue replaced violence and political leaders join to continue the development of effective governance.
"During your time in theater," Mixon continued, "you furthered stabilization and later transitioned authority to the people of Iraq. Iraqi citizens may never know the tremendous effort and sacrifice of the Soldiers represented here today."
The guidons for each returning unit and brigade were also uncased simultaneously amongst their redeploying comrades.
TFL headquarters, based just outside of Tikrit, Iraq, at Contingency Operating Base-Speicher, was familiar territory for Tropic Lightning Soldiers, as the division was deployed there previously, July 2006-September 2007.
Many of the Soldiers in formation on the field have completed several redeployment ceremonies.
Soldiers like Capt. George Aubert, 3rd Bde. STB, 3rd IBCT, who completed his third deployment, consider themselves fortunate to have the support of family during these deployments.
"It's always hard, but it does get easier in some aspects," said Denise Aubert, his wife. "But it is still hard to do for so long, especially with a newborn."
"I couldn't have done it without (my family)," Aubert said. "They took care of everything back at home, and let us do our job over there without any worries."
For now though, for the loved ones of these Soldiers have fewer worries. With the generals' flags raised and the 25th ID guidon firmly planted on Hawaiian soil once again, the Soldiers and military personnel are officially home.