Spartans welcomed home

Ceremony honors returning troops


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1st Sgt. Israel Betanzos talks to the members of the 725th Brigade Support Battalion following the ceremony.

MATT TUNSETH

Army Sgt. Thomas Floyd was deployed in Afghanistan for most of the first year of his daughter’s life, so he’s been playing a lot of catch up since returning to Alaska last month.

“This is the biggest thing, just spending time getting to know her,” Floyd said as he and his wife, Claudia, played with their 13-month-old daughter, Francesca, in the stands at Sullivan Arena in Anchorage on Nov. 1.

The Floyds joined thousands of soldiers and their families who gathered inside the arena for a redeployment ceremony recognizing the Army’s 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division (the “Spartan” brigade), which spent nearly a year in eastern Afghanistan.

Also in the stands was Sgt. Richard Hobson, who sent a text to his wife to let her know where he was sitting. Sgt. Hobson said it’s the little things — like the ability to fire off a quick text — a soldier misses while deployed.

“It is nice to be back in civilization,” he said.

The ceremony featured speeches by Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Sen. Mark Begich (via video) and Gov. Sean Parnell, along with remarks from Maj. Gen. Michael X. Garrett and brigade commander Col. Morris Goins.

Garrett, now the U.S. Army Alaska’s Commanding General, served as the brigade’s first commander when it was commissioned in 2005.

“Sparta Lives!” said Gen. Garrett as he began his speech.

Garrett said the 3,500-member brigade more than fulfilled its wartime mission.

“The Spartans made it their business to make sure that as they defeated their enemies on the battlefield, they didn’t create new ones in the villages and mosques,” Garrett said.

The brigade’s mission was to provide security in the Khost, Paktya and eastern Paktika provinces in Afghanistan. While there, the brigade detained more than 200 insurgents and enrolled more than 80,000 Afghans into a biometric database, according to the Army. The troops also worked closely with their Afghan army counterparts and turned over two bases to Afghan control.

Eight Spartans died in combat during the deployment, and Goins choked up as he told the audience about the sacrifices his troops made while overseas.

“My father-in-law called me a cream puff,” Goins said as he tried to hold back tears. “I guess I am.”

Goins also thanked those in attendance — especially the families who waited anxiously for their soldiers’ return — for their sacrifices.

“You have our hearts,” he said.

Most of the brigade is scheduled to go on leave in the coming weeks before returning to their normal duties on base.

 

Contact Matt Tunseth at 694-2727 or matt.tunseth@alaskastar.com.

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