By Sgt. Nathan Hoskins, 1st ACB, 1st Cav. Div. Public AffairsDecember 14, 2007
CAMP VIRGINIA, Kuwait - It isn't a complex or long word, but it has a lot to do with getting Soldiers and their equipment home - especially after a 15-month deployment.
It's called a node.
And the Soldiers of the 1st Air Cavalry "Warrior" Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division are headed home little by little because of the operations taking place at the 1st ACB node in Camp Virginia, Kuwait, said Waynesville, Mo., native Spc. Michael McGrath, an aviation operations specialist for the 1st ACB.
These specialized groups of Warriors have been placed all across Kuwait to make sure this task is accomplished efficiently and effectively, said McGrath, who is also the battle noncommissioned officer for the Camp Virginia node.
There's a node where helicopters fly in, get cleaned and prepped for customs inspections.
There's a node that processes troopers who fly in to Kuwait from Iraq and when they depart from Kuwait to the States.
There's a node where vehicles are sent via truck from Iraq to be washed and customs inspected.
There's a node where all ground equipment and helos are prepped for loading onto ships for their voyage back to the States, said McGrath.
The node in Camp Virginia monitors and runs all these nodes and is the primary hub from which passengers are scheduled to catch a flight home, he said.
These nodes are helping Soldiers transition smoothly between Iraq and the United States, said St. Louis native Spc. Brook Taylor, a construction equipment mechanic for Company E, 1st "Attack" Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, 1st ACB, 1st Cav. Div.
"This is my second time being deployed; this time went a whole lot smoother than four years ago," he said.
After a small journey from Iraq to the Camp Virginia node the Soldiers wait ... and wait, said Taylor.
"There's always the inevitable hurry up and wait," said Taylor.
McGrath shares this sentiment.
"It's a waiting game. Whenever a plane shows up is when you're going home," he said.
He explains that there are a myriad of reason for flights to be delayed or for one group of Soldiers to be pushed back on to a different flight - reasons families can't see.
"If you were here to see all that happens, then you'd understand," said McGrath.
During this entire journey the personnel at the Virginia node have tracked and accounted every single Soldier till they arrive at their doorstep in Fort Hood.
At Camp Virginia they are given temporary housing and wait for their scheduled flight to make it in to Kuwait City International Airport, he said.
"Everything is subject to change," McGrath said with a slight laugh. "But we constantly [communicate] with the node at Ali Al Saleem [Air Base] to streamline passengers moving out ... and to track the flights."
After about three days, give or take due to numerous factors, the Soldiers pack up their gear and head back out to the node where they'll go through customs, McGrath said.
Once the troopers make it through the meticulous customs search, where they have to dump all their contents in all their bags out onto a table to be looked at, they then sit and wait for the bus ride to the airport, McGrath said.
When the bus takes them out to their plane, there's no more waiting; they load up and take off headed towards home, said McGrath.
And that's just the Soldiers. What about their equipment and personal items they couldn't carry with them'
That stuff was inspected, packed, locked up in large shipping containers and driven from Iraq all the way down to a port along the Persian Gulf, said Little Valley, N.Y., native Chief Warrant Officer Scott Hahn, the mobility warrant officer for 1st ACB.
Once it reaches the sea port of embarkation it will be loaded up onto ships ready to sail back to the United States, he said.
The equipment and most of the aircraft will make it back to the States well after the Soldiers' return, said Hahn.
Some aircraft, after being taken apart, cleaned, and then inspected, weren't flown down to the port to be loaded onto a ship. Instead, they were loaded up into Air Force C-5 cargo planes and flown home for reset - a sort of aircraft overhaul, Hahn said.
It may seem like a long and complicated journey for Soldiers and their equipment to head back to the United States, but the Camp Virginia node is working hard to accomplish the mission.
More importantly the node is working fervently to get 1st ACB Soldiers back into the arms of their loved ones as soon as possible.
That's one aspect of this mission not subject to change.