Screaming Eagles Enjoy Pleasures of Redeployment
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 23, 2004 For 18,000 soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) recently returned from a year in Iraq -- and for some, more months in Afghanistan -- there's no place like home.
The "Screaming Eagles" said they returned to Fort Campbell, Ky., after deployments in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom with a newfound appreciation for the simple pleasures in life. And no single pleasure ranked higher than the opportunity to reconnect with their families.
101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) troops recently returned from Iraq say they enjoy seeing signs of support around Fort Campbell, Ky., and the surrounding community. Photo by Donna Miles
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
For some, like Staff Sgt. David Giddens with the 101st Corps Support Group's Headquarters and Headquarters Company, being home after an 11-month deployment means catching up with his 8- and 14-year-old children, while finally introducing himself to his 6-month-old son, David Jr.
Sgt. Benedicta Matlock with Division Support Command's Headquarters and Headquarters Company said she's "trying to be mommy again" to her 10- and 13- year-old children, who both experienced dramatic growth spurts during her yearlong absence. Matlock said she's looking forward to quality family time during her children's spring school breaks.
Pfc. Roy Marshall with A Company, 326th Engineer Battalion, said he was surprised how much he missed his parents and sisters in Indiana while he was gone. "Sometimes you don't realize the things you'll miss until you're over there," he said. "The great thing now is that I can pick up the phone anytime I want and talk to them."
For many returning soldiers, the pleasure of redeployment means getting to enjoy the simple niceties of life.
Pfc. Dave Ramnath from Headquarters and Headquarters Company, Division Support Command, said he's enjoying flushing toilets, the freedom to drive off post in his own car and the tastes of fresh food. He said his first sip of alcohol after a long deployment had an unexpected result. "I felt the effects after just one drink," he admitted.
For Tonya Guedry with 1st Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment, the biggest pleasures of being home are green landscapes, showers with hot running water and the opportunity "to go into a store and buy anything I want." She said she hasn't quite gotten used to the crowds in public places, particularly in shopping malls.
Since returning from Iraq, Marshall said, he can barely get enough of his favorite food, cheeseburgers, and that he's "driving everyone in the barracks nuts" by constantly playing the guitar he left behind when his unit deployed.
Marshall said loves getting two or three days off at a time now that his unit is back at Fort Campbell. "When you're deployed, you have no downtime," he said. "You're always working or always ready, and days off are never promised."
For soldiers who lived with the constant threat of attacks by Iraqi insurgents, being back at Fort Campbell represents the first opportunity to take a deep breath and relax. Giddens said he enjoys being able to drive off post "without worrying about anything" and not having to "watch your back" as he did in Iraq. He admits that he still gets "kind of jumpy" when he hears loud noises.
As they enjoy the pleasures of home, many 101st soldiers said they returned markedly changed by their wartime deployment.
"I learned how to appreciate things and not to take everything for granted," said Giddens.
Pfc. Robert Jones from B Company, 2nd Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, agreed. "It made me realize, don't take anything for granted," he said. "Nothing is free not even freedom."
Guedry said the experience helped her grow up. "I can definitely tell that I'm more mature," she said. "The little things just don't matter anymore."
For Staff Sgt. John Mulrooney with Company B, 801st Main Support Battalion, months without the comforts of home taught him to be less materialistic. "Material things begin to mean less because you don't really need them," he said. "You realize that other things are more important, especially family and friends."
Many 101st soldiers said they returned to Fort Campbell with a strong sense of pride in their accomplishments.
Spc. Richard Phillips with E Company, 801st Main Support Battalion, said he feels lucky to have the opportunity to serve in Iraq and to be a part of the 101st Airborne Division's legacy. "We wrote a new page in history," he said.
"The 101st did a lot of worthwhile things," agreed Mulrooney. "I feel proud of what we did."
Marshall said it's great to see the tremendous outpouring of support he and his fellow Screaming Eagles have received. "It's obvious that people respect us and appreciate what we've done," he said. "It makes you feel really good."
Even as they enjoy that outpouring the yellow ribbons still on many trees, the signs of welcome at local restaurants and businesses and the discounts many offer to returned troops some Screaming Eagles troops say they're already hearing rumors that they could return to Iraq.
"I'm not excited about the idea. I'd rather stay here," admitted Spc. Jonathan Brown with 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry "Rakkasans," who served almost three months in Afghanistan before his one-year deployment to Iraq. "But if that's what we have to do, it's what we'll do."
Guedry said she, too, has heard rumors her battalion could go back to Iraq, possibly next year as part of a third troop rotation. "At least it prepares you so you can get your stuff ready," she said. "And at least you have an idea of what to expect."