By Spc. Ryan Stroud; 3rd BCT, 1st Cav. Div. Public AffairsFebruary 8, 2008
FORT HOOD, Texas - During November and December 2007, Soldiers from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, anxiously unloaded busses to walk across the parade field of the 1st Cavalry Division Headquarters and were able to greet joyous family members and friends welcoming these tired Soldiers home.
ith block leave looming, many Soldiers had a difficult task of reintegrating with those they had to leave 14 months prior.
Now into February and completing the process of reintegration, most of the "Grey Wolf" Soldiers have returned from leave and are in the process of getting their units back into order and preparing for their next possible mission.
But what is that next mission'
Unfortunately, it's a little too soon to say for most of the Soldiers of the Grey Wolf Brigade. But, as many of them put it, they're just looking to "jump back into the swing of things."
"Right now we're getting everything situated around our work areas," said Cpl. Phil McKee, Company C, 1st Squadron, 12th Combined Arms Battalion, and a native of Philadelphia. "We're getting ready to get back into the swing of things like gunnery ranges and field problems.
"We'll also go to the motor pool to make sure our tanks are running properly, square away our work areas in case of inspections and other things of that nature," he added.
McKee was one of many Soldiers who deployed to Baqouba, Iraq, in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom 06-08. He says the changes from coming home from a war zone were not as hard on him as it might have been for others.
"As far as transition, it was really easy for me," said McKee. "My wife bought a house for me while I was overseas, so when I got home, I got to just jump back into ... things."
But he still reflects on what he accomplished while in Iraq.
"We would go outside [the wire] to conduct patrols and make sure everything in our area was secure and the people in the villages were getting what they need," said McKee. "When we were first out there, we did have to worry about [improvised explosive devices] a lot. But, you put those fears behind you and shook it off."
"The biggest thing I was worried about out there was being [hit] by an IED," said Pfc. Eric Orantes, also of Co. C, 1-12 CAB. "But it was nice to see people on the streets, shopping and riding donkeys. That was a nice feeling because people love us for what we'd done for them."
"I'm proud of our whole deployment," McKee added. "When we first got out there, no one was walking the streets; but by the time we left, the streets were so packed from the markets that it was hard to get a Humvee through it."
"We were heading out on two missions a day, six days a week while in Iraq," interjected Pfc. Eric Orantes, also of Co. C, 1-12 CAB. "Working that long and hard has made it a little difficult to get back into 'regular' life again."
Both Soldiers love the fact that they are home again though.
"Coming home was one of the greatest things of my life," he said. "I had a little baby boy before we left so to see him and the rest of my family again, that was great."
Orantes said he also feels his family's successful reintegration had much to do with his wife's support and understanding.
"My wife has been very supportive of me coming back from deployment," he said. "Before the Army, I was a cop so my wife already knows how to handle me when I would come home from a bad day.
"She's given me some 'me' time and let me do my thing," he continued. "So coming home from Iraq, she gave me a couple of days to let it sink in and little by little, everything goes back to being normal again."
Spending some much-needed time with his son also helped, said Orantes.
"I've enjoyed spending time with my son," he said. "On a fun day, we'll wake up, get some coffee and breakfast, head to Dave and Busters and then a movie. (We) come home and play video games, and call it a day. A full day of fun from the moment we wake up until we go to bed," - a life much different from the past 14 months in Iraq.
Though the future for these two Soldiers is wide open, both feel as if they will deploy again one day. So, now starts the process for the both of them; getting mentally and physically prepared for any possible deployment that might come their way. And if or when that day comes, they will be ready.
"I could deploy again right now," Orantes said. "I'm ready. Do I want to so fast after getting back' No, but I would if they needed me to."
So with that, all the Soldiers of Grey Wolf continue to readjust to life in a garrison environment. From unloading equipment and returning to a daily routine of training, the Soldiers are now back home with their families.
"It was nice to get some time off," McKee said, although he is glad to be back with his brothers-in arms. "These guys are like brothers, you just can't get away from them."