V Corps leaders, band return to Germany
HEIDELBERG, Germany — A day after ceding control of Multi-National Corps–Iraq, the leadership of V Corps returned from Baghdad on Friday along with half of the 76th Army band.
A spate of bewildering aircraft problems and bad weather delayed the return about half a day.
Still, news that his father’s return was delayed even that long after almost a year at war was disappointing for Michael Dragon.
“I was kind of sad because I was waiting for so long,” said the 8-year-old son of Col. Randall Dragon, the V Corps plans and operations officer.
Michael looked forward to playing soccer with his dad, a pastime he had missed during their separation, but for the time being seemed happy enough just to stand next to him.
Michael’s older sister, Kristen, 15, said the hardest part of her father’s absence for her was “just not having him around and not having that daddy presence looking over your shoulder.”
After reuniting, Ellen Watson, wife of Sgt. Maj. Ivor Watson, cried in her husband’s arms as the relief of his return poured out of her. She wasn’t looking forward to anything fancy, just to going back to a normal life. Of course, getting home was part of the battle. Delays in travel to, from and around Iraq are nothing new, said Sgt. Terrel Henckel, a member of the 76th Army Band.
As Henckel waited in a chilly tent at Baghdad International Airport for the plane that would take him home, the 25-year-old soldier from Richmond, Wash., was not in the least bit perturbed.
“Anything can happen now as I don’t leave [the airport] on anything other than a plane out of here,” he said Friday morning, hours before the sun came up.
After lining up under a cloudless and breezeless Baghdad sky to board their plane, the 69 soldiers of V Corps and the band were sent back inside to wait out supposedly bad weather.
“My first thought was, ‘just fly around another hour until the weather clears,’ ” said Chief Warrant Officer Daryl Vail, the 76th’s bandmaster.
The weather delay came hours after their original plane, which had undergone repairs in Qatar, flew past Baghdad and onto Ramstein without them.
After the final delay was announced, band member Staff Sgt. David Wilzewske commented to a colleague, “You can’t make this stuff up.” Henckel, for whom this was the end of a second tour in Iraq, said, “I just can’t wait to get home and catch back up with the world that kept going on while we were here.”