Note: In February 2012, the New England Newspaper and Press Association honored the “Mission: Iraq” series with second place in the special award category in the New England Better Newspaper competition.
For 220th soldiers, life begins after Iraq
Published April 26, 2011 12:15 pm
By Casey Farrar Sentinel Staff
JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. — The soldiers sat quietly in 11 straight rows facing forward, a mass of green, tan and brown camouflage.Fifteen months ago, more than 150 Army reservists from across the U.S. left their jobs and families to prepare for deployment to Iraq with the Keene-based 220th Transportation Company.
Together they spent four months training at Army bases across the country, a few weeks acclimating to the desert heat in Kuwait and then more than nine months living in northern Iraq. During their time at Contingency Operating Base Speicher, outside Tikrit, the unit completed 170 convoy missions, logging more than 400,000 miles.
Friday evening, 146 of the soldiers gathered one last time in a small chapel on a military base in New Jersey for a ceremony that officially ended their deployment.
Family members and friends filled rows of chairs behind the soldiers. For many of the soldiers, the occasion was the first glimpse in months of their loved ones. Others wouldn’t see their families until they arrived home.
Brig. Gen. Peter S. Lennon, who leads the Pennsylvania-based 316th Expeditionary Sustainment Command to which the unit belongs, told the soldiers Friday’s ceremony marked “the final page in your deployment scrapbook.”
Despite the soldiers’ solemn faces and stiff postures, an air of excitement buzzed through the room. Knees bounced, feet shuffled and occasionally a soldier glanced back, flashing a smile at a mother, a father, a wife or a child.