FAIRBANKS — Col. Todd Wood didn’t mince words.
“Welcome home. Congratulations. Dismissed,” Wood said to approximately 80 soldiers from the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division who had just returned to Fort Wainwright Sunday from a year-long deployment in Afghanistan.
The colonel knew better than to launch into a speech about how much the brigade had accomplished during its tour in Afghanistan and how proud he was as their commander.
“They’ve got places to go,” a smiling Wood said as his troops found their way into the waiting arms of loved ones.
Sunday marked the next-to-last redeployment flight for the approximately 4,000-member Fort Wainwright Stryker Brigade, which spent 12 months in southern Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. About 90 brigade personnel remain in Afghanistan and they will return on Wednesday, Wood said.
Different parts of the brigade have been arriving at Fort Wainwright for more than a month now and Wood, who returned to the base a week earlier, said it’s a “huge relief” to have his unit back on American soil. The brigade was still conducting combat missions 10 days earlier, he said.
“It’s great to see families reunited,” Wood said.
Known as the Arctic Wolves, members of the Fort Wainwright Stryker Brigade deployed to Afghanistan in March 2011, where they served in support of the Army’s 10th Mountain Division of Fort Drum, N.Y., and more recently in support of of the 82nd Airborne Division of Fort Bragg, N.C.
Battalions from the brigade worked in Zabul and Southern Kandahar provinces, two of the most contested areas in the country, to protect the local Afghan population from insurgents and to train Afghan security forces to do the same. Wood said the brigade’s mission was a success.
“Both those areas were transferred to Afghan control, you can’t ask for more than that,” the colonel said. “This was a hugely satisfying deployment.”
On Sunday, loved ones and friends greeted the soldiers with signs, kisses, hugs and handshakes when they arrived at Fort Wainwright.
Danielle Linderman had tears in her eyes as she wrapped her arms around her husband, Sgt. Brandon Linderman.
“I’m so happy you’re home,” she said, wiping tears from her eyes before hugging him again.
The first troops in the brigade began arriving home in March and Danielle said it was agonizing watching other families be reunited while she had to wait for Brandon to return.
“It was hard,” she said. “My friends’ husbands came home and I had to wait.”
To which Brandon replied, “Waiting makes the heart grow fonder” before planting another kiss on his wife’s lips.