Local unit back after 4-month deployment

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 21, 2003

The crowd attendance was lower, the temperature was much higher, but on Tuesday, none of that seemed to matter when the Demopolis 167th Engineers walked through the doors of the National Guard Armory after a four-month deployment.

On Jan. 24 &045;&045; a day when temperatures dropped into single digits &045;&045; more than 160 men and women from Demopolis and Centreville departed for the unknown. Yes, they knew America was headed to war against Iraq; beyond that, they knew nothing.

Tuesday afternoon, close to 100 citizens gathered at the Armory off Highway 43 to welcome the soldiers home. There were few tears, but plenty of children clapping and wearing American flags. The speeches, compared to four months ago, were to-the-point out of respect for soldiers who wanted to hug their families.

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After four months of waiting to depart for the Persian Gulf, and ultimately Iraq, the Demopolis unit walked back onto home soil without ever having to face battle.

Col. Jimmy Suttles, standing in for Adjutant Gen. Mark Bowen, spoke briefly to the soldiers and the families, thanking them for their service, stressing that their service was just as important as any other unit."

American forces invaded Iraq on Wednesday, March 20, and the strategy for attack was quite clear. The U.S. military did everything within its power to keep the infrastructure of Iraq intact. Bombs did not fall on power outlets, or roads or bridges.

The Demopolis unit would have been called to battle if the bridges in Iraq over the Tigris or Euphrates rivers would have been damaged. But that didn’t happen, and the local troops were spared the reality of war.

Col. Danny Speigner, like most who briefly spoke to the troops, thanked the Demopolis unit for its dedication to the U.S. military.

Lt. Col. Goodrich Rogers said the transition back to civilian life may be harder than some families understand.

The transition back to civilian life wasn’t complete on Tuesday when the troops officially came back to Demopolis. For two more days, members of the 167th Engineers will have to fill out paperwork and remain at the local armory.