After 15 months in Iraq, Schweinfurt soldiers return

Unit leaders to focus on re-integration process to help soldiers ease away from war mentality

By CHARLIE REED | STARS AND STRIPES Published: October 22, 2007

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany — After spending most of the last 15 months in one of Baghdad’s most dangerous neighborhoods, 126 members of Task Force 1-26 got to go home Sunday night.

The task force is among the first wave of Schweinfurt, Germany-based troops expected back from Iraq this week and throughout October and November.

“I’ve been in (the Army) for 16 years, and this is one of the tightest companies I’ve been in, and it’s a result of some of the struggles we’ve been through,” said Cpt. Cecil Strickland, commander of Company C, one of three companies that make up Task Force 1-26, which lost 26 soldiers during its 15-month deployment in Iraq.

In Adhamiyah, a Sunni enclave, the task force played a deadly game of cat-and-mouse with the enemy, Strickland said. “As we progressed, they progressed,” he said. “When we adjusted something, they adjusted.”

At least 60 soldiers from Schweinfurt have been killed in combat since the main body of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, known as the “Dagger Brigade,” deployed last year. The brigade has endured the deadliest deployment of any Europe-based U.S. military brigade in Iraq.

“There are some guys that think that alcohol is going to solve their problems or there are going to be some guys that get into trouble,” Strickland said. “But there are some resources we can use to mitigate some of that.”

For Strickland, 36, whose wife and two children were expected to be part of the welcome back party waiting in Schweinfurt Sunday night, just getting back home is a comfort for most.

“We’re all ready to be back,” he said. “It’s been a long 15 months.”

Besides getting to know his family again, Strickland said he was looking forward to sleep and good German beer.

From family counseling to decompression activities, soldiers getting back from deployment go through a seven-day re-integration process.

“The key to success is following that time-proven process of re-integration,” said Lt. Gen. Kenneth Hunzeker, V Corps commander, who greeted members of the task force as they made their way from the flight line to customs.

Hunzeker had led the division in training before the deployment.

“Now I’m here to welcome them back,” he said. “It’s a huge honor.”

Staff Sgt. Octavio Nunez, a soldier from Company C, 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, prepares his bags for customs after landing Sunday at Ramstein Air Base in Germany.

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