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Spc. Joseph Baker, filling out paperwork on the right, is one of 396 other 5th Signal Command troops who recently returned from an 11-month deployment to Kuwait in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom 2.
Spc. Joseph Baker, filling out paperwork on the right, is one of 396 other 5th Signal Command troops who recently returned from an 11-month deployment to Kuwait in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom 2. (Jessica Inigo / S&S)

MANNHEIM, Germany — It now takes longer to get on and off post, get lunch within the appropriate hour or find room to patronize local establishments in the Mannheim military community.

This means only one thing: The troops are home.

About 400 5th Signal Command soldiers made it home Sunday after an 11-month deployment to Kuwait.

The troops, who supported communication operations for Iraq and Kuwait, are now going through the seven-day reintegration process and looking forward to 30 days of block leave through the holidays.

Though the desert-weary troops came home only a couple of days after Thanksgiving Day, many said it didn’t even matter.

“I’m looking forward to being with my kids who are about to turn 2 and 3 in January,” said Sgt. 1st Class Timothy Ellis, the 2nd platoon sergeant for Company A, 72nd Signal Battalion, while completing reintegration paperwork Tuesday on Sullivan Barracks.

“I’m lucky because I got to come home for R&R [rest and recuperation] just after my wife’s birthday and be home for my anniversary. And now, I get my children’s birthdays and the holidays. I can make up for lost time now that I’m with them again.”

Despite long lines and waiting, the community is as happy to have its troops home as the soldiers are to be back.

Morale, Welfare and Recreation facilities, the Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers program, Outdoor Recreation and the Army and Air Force Exchange Service are offering deals to the returning troops, such as discounted tours to various cities and 50-cent bowling days.

Single soldiers said they’re just as happy to be out of the desert as their married counterparts, and said they are preparing to party it up.

“I’m thrilled to be back in civilization and not having someone telling me what to do every hour of the day,” said Sgt. Jared Coffin, a line of site transmission systems team chief for Company A, 72nd Signal Battalion. He said during his block leave he’s planning a vacation through Holland; the Czech Republic; Budapest, Hungary; and ringing in the New Year in Spain.

Spc. Bonnie Leksrisawat, a radio technician with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 72nd Signal Battalion, echoed Coffin’s sentiment and said she’s most looking forward to having indoor plumbing. She also said the deployment made her a better soldier, since she learned much more about her job.

“I also learned that the desert is really hot,” she said.

Because leadership knows that troops sometimes tend to overcompensate for missed leisure time, the reintegration process includes safety classes.

“The key is to get the troops ready for traveling in the winter,” explained Master Sgt. Darryl Robinson, the brigade maintenance supervisor.

Another leader, Sgt. Carlos Varnado, the Company B motor pool supply noncommissioned officer in charge, added that troops need to stay safe through all the upcoming free time and not drive recklessly or drink and drive.

Though Mannheim is packed now, it won’t be brimming with troops for long. Another batch of troops are gearing up for a deployment to Operation Iraqi Freedom 3 or Operation Enduring Freedom 6 by early next year, according to post officials.

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