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Sgt. 1st Class Ronnie Haith, left, of 13th Corp Support Command Headquarters Company turns in his nuclear, biological and chemical gear to Spc. Fernando Hernandez at LSA Anaconda, Iraq, in preparation for a trip home after nearly one year at the base.
Sgt. 1st Class Ronnie Haith, left, of 13th Corp Support Command Headquarters Company turns in his nuclear, biological and chemical gear to Spc. Fernando Hernandez at LSA Anaconda, Iraq, in preparation for a trip home after nearly one year at the base. (Ron Jensen / s&s)

LOGISTICS SUPPORT AREA ANACONDA, Iraq — Just as the robin signals the arrival of spring, so the turn-in of NBC gear denotes the end of a long mission in Iraq — and a chance to reflect on the time spent there.

About 300 members of the 13th Corps Support Command’s Headquarters Company handed back their unused nuclear, biological and chemical gear in recent days to prepare for a return to Fort Hood, Texas, after more than 11 months at LSA Anaconda.

“It hasn’t hit me yet. It doesn’t feel like I’m going home,” said Spc. Charles Cook, a supply clerk.

Asked if he’ll miss anything about life at Anaconda, he said, “The sunsets.”

Others had a different answer that was equally quick and sincere.

“Nothing,” said Cpl. Jeffrey Benedict, an official mail clerk.

He was leaving the Army last year to study to be a physician’s assistant when the stop-loss program changed his plans. Now, he hopes to get that effort back on track.

“No,” said Spc. Charles Cottingham, an official mail clerk, when asked if he’ll miss anything about life at Anaconda, the largest supply hub in Iraq and home to about 23,000 troops and civilians.

He did admit one thing.

“It went by faster than I thought it would,” he said. “I guess that’s because I stayed busy all the time.”

That’s his advice for anyone coming in about to start a long tour.

“Stay busy and try to stay out of trouble,” he advised. “You can get bored real easy.”

Sgt. 1st Class Ronnie Haith, food service noncommissioned officer in charge, said, “I’ll probably miss some of the people. I’m sure when we get back to the rear I won’t see them on a daily basis. I met a lot of nice people.”

He, too, said the time passed more rapidly than he imagined when he arrived in January.

“One day just fell into another. Before you knew it, a week had gone by,” he said.

Asked if he had any advice for newcomers, he said, “Just keep a positive outlook.”

Then, with a nod toward the mortar and rocket attacks that kept the base on tenterhooks much of the time he was here, he added, “Keep your head low.”

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