By Anna StaatzApril 23, 2008
FORT RILEY, Kan. (Army News Service, April 23, 2003) - About 1,200 Soldiers shook off the last remnants of sand and sun from a 14-month deployment and stepped into the waiting arms of their Family and friends at Fort Riley.
The Soldiers, who returned to the post in five groups from April 10 through April 13, were the first from the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division to set boots back in Kansas. About 3,400 Soldiers returned home to Fort Riley this week.
"The only thing anyone is going to remember about a colonel speaking at 3 a.m. is that he spoke to you," said Col. Michael Courts, 1st Inf. Div. chief of staff, as he addressed Soldiers returning in the wee hours of the morning April 11. "Very few people get the opportunity to change a country ... We are proud of you."
The Soldiers deployed from Fort Riley in February 2007, the second of five surge brigades sent to Iraq.
The brigade conducted stability and support operations in the Rashid District of Southern Baghdad, which is roughly the size of Orlando, Fla., with a population of about 1.2 million.
In Rashid, 4th IBCT Soldiers conducted combat operations that resulted in the capture of more than 200 high-profile targets and reduced 20 enemy cells to five. Soldiers also completed more than 200 civil projects, including repairing sewer, water, medical and education facilities and electrical projects.
The brigade's accomplishments, though, were the last things on the minds of Families and friends at the homecoming.
Terri Norwood was present at a ceremony late April 10 to welcome home her son, Spc. Robert Juric. Norwood said the deployment had been full of mixed emotions and seeing her son walk out into formation was "awesome."
"It's been very challenging," Norwood said. "It's been a difficult 14 months, but we've been very blessed. There have been highs and lows. I'm very proud of his unit and I'm very proud of him and the men who served with him. I'm just glad to see them all come home."
Families packed out the deployment support facility location on Custer Hill for each of the five ceremonies.
Christina Mabe waited anxiously for her husband, Sgt. William Mabe, before a ceremony April 10. She, her 14-month-old daughter, Kaly, along with other members of her Family, made the long drive from Tampa, Fla., to be at Fort Riley for the ceremony.
"What am I looking forward to' I just want to see him. And I want her to see her dad," Christina Mabe said.
Soldiers in the 4th IBCT will return to Fort Riley a few hundred at a time during the next few weeks. The brigade is expected to be completely redeployed to Fort Riley by early May.
(Anna Staatz writes for the Fort Riley Post)