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94th Engineer Battalion soldiers including Spc. Mark Dunlop, 22, of Hamden, N.Y., left, and Spc. Ryan Benson, 21, of Kennedy, N.Y., right, enjoy a barbecue at Little Mike Lake on Wednesday.

94th Engineer Battalion soldiers including Spc. Mark Dunlop, 22, of Hamden, N.Y., left, and Spc. Ryan Benson, 21, of Kennedy, N.Y., right, enjoy a barbecue at Little Mike Lake on Wednesday. (Seth Robson / S&S)

94th Engineer Battalion soldiers including Spc. Mark Dunlop, 22, of Hamden, N.Y., left, and Spc. Ryan Benson, 21, of Kennedy, N.Y., right, enjoy a barbecue at Little Mike Lake on Wednesday.

94th Engineer Battalion soldiers including Spc. Mark Dunlop, 22, of Hamden, N.Y., left, and Spc. Ryan Benson, 21, of Kennedy, N.Y., right, enjoy a barbecue at Little Mike Lake on Wednesday. (Seth Robson / S&S)

94th Engineer Battalion soldiers Spc. Mark Dunlop, left, 22, of Hamden, N.Y., and Spc. Ryan Benson, 21, of Kennedy, N.Y., toss horseshoes at Little Mike Lake on Wednesday.

94th Engineer Battalion soldiers Spc. Mark Dunlop, left, 22, of Hamden, N.Y., and Spc. Ryan Benson, 21, of Kennedy, N.Y., toss horseshoes at Little Mike Lake on Wednesday. (Seth Robson / S&S)

A pair of 94th Engineer Battalion soldiers enjoy canoeing at Little Mike Lake.

A pair of 94th Engineer Battalion soldiers enjoy canoeing at Little Mike Lake. (Seth Robson / S&S)

VILSECK, Germany — Soldiers from the 94th Engineer Battalion took a well-earned barbecue break here Wednesday from the triple challenge of reintegrating after a year in Mosul, Iraq, transforming into a “combined effects battalion” and preparing to restation to Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., next month.

About 170 soldiers and 30 family members from the 94th’s Headquarters and Support Company (FSC) spent the day at Little Mike Lake playing softball, volleyball and basketball, tossing horseshoes, canoeing and frying up steaks, sausages and hamburgers.

The event reminded company commander Capt. Stephen Peterson, 30, of Yuba City, Calif., of an organizational day the battalion held in Mosul last September that included basketball, arm-wrestling, dodge ball and flag football.

“But there’s a lot more grass here and it’s below 100 degrees,” he said.

94th Battalion soldiers had worked hard over the past five months to reintegrate after the unit came back from Iraq, prepare to return to the U.S. and transform, which involves splitting the FSC into two units — a headquarters company and a forward support company, he said.

“Most units do those things one at a time, and we are doing all three simultaneously,” Peterson said.

One of the barbecue’s organizers, Spc. Mark Britton, 28, of Sherrard, Ill., was saying goodbye to Germany just eight months after he arrived. He said he enjoyed his brief stay in Europe, which involved skiing for the first time.

“Everybody has been putting in a lot of long hours clearing and working on the barracks. A lot of people are going their separate ways, so it is nice for everybody to get together and relax,” he said.

Only 80 of about 250 soldiers in the company will remain with the unit in Missouri, Peterson added.

The barbecue was a chance for Spc. Mark Dunlop, 22, of Hamden, N.Y. and Spc. Ryan Benson, 21, of Kennedy, N.Y., to showcase their horseshoe-tossing skills.

They were horseshoe team champions at Camp Virginia, Kuwait, and honed their skills at Camp Marez in Mosul, where they took over a horseshoe pit built by a previous unit.

“We are from small farming communities, so we play all the time. It’s a way of life,” Dunlop said.

The pair, who were both .50-caliber machine-gunners in Iraq, said horseshoe tossing was their way of relaxing between missions.

The 94th will case its colors May 30 and the unit will restation to Fort Leonard Wood next month, Peterson said.

author picture
Seth Robson is a Tokyo-based reporter who has been with Stars and Stripes since 2003. He has been stationed in Japan, South Korea and Germany, with frequent assignments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Australia and the Philippines.

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