The Day! We got up at 0630, packed and cleared our billets. Then we bused to the Green Ramp, the same place we departed from in February. We loaded our bags onto the hauler. The process got downright rowdy, with some of the junior officers flinging bags out of the bus. We howled with laughter, though we'd have been furious if anybody else treated our bags that way. We weighed in, then went to wait in the departure terminal. Two KC-135's arrived at 1130. The first one came in too steeply and had to make a touch-and-go landing, much to everyone's dismay, but soon the planes taxied in. It was great to see WISCONSIN on the tail fin. We lifted off at 1230. On the way I got to ride for a bit in the boom bay and look straight down, an amazing view. We did a flyby over the airport, then landed. When both planes were down, they opened the doors and we saw a huge crowd. We fell in behind the color guard, took a few steps, and somebody yelled "Here they come". That was the last time anything remotely resembled a military formation. The crowd rushed us. I looked for Shawn but the kids found me first and plowed into me from either side before I even saw them.
We had a short ceremony. The band played the national anthem, then there were short remarks by the County Executive, a spokesman for Toby Roth, LTC Christopherson, COL Henshaw, commander of the 308th, and the commander of the 86th Army Reserve Command. I took Shawn and the kids to see one of the tankers. We went home a couple of hours (the house was done up in yellow ribbons), unpacked, then I went back to retrieve my bags from the Reserve Center.
The day was spent relaxing, unpacking, and sorting. We went to the Reserve Center at 1830 and marched as families down Oneida Street, shaking hands with well-wishers on the way. It was loose, informal, and infinitely more meaningful than a formal parade could ever have been. We were greeted by the 890th Transportation Company, who beat us home by about 10 days, and the Vietnam Veterans of America, who were a huge help to our support group. At the Arena, there were short remarks by the mayors of Green Bay and De Pere, plus LTC Christopherson. After repeated glitches with the music, Jan Butz did the National Anthem a cappella. There was a brief fireworks show, then we got on buses and returned to the center.
We went to Noah's Ark in Wisconsin Dells today and all got ferocious sunburns. Very embarrasing to spend six months in a desert war and get my first really bad sunburn at home in a water park!
I spent much of the day trying to arrange airline tickets for a trip to the West Coast and then working at the University. I wrote up an abstract for the Geological Society of America meeting in San Diego on my observations in Iraq. They may not accept it, since today is the deadline, but I decided I had to give it a try. If they accept postmark dates, it may make it. (They accepted the postmark, but not the paper.)
About 50 of us reported at 1000 for the Fourth of July parade. The parade formed up on Bond St. between Fisk and, appropriately enough, Military. The parade route went east on Bond for a few blocks, then south to Dousman, then east again to the Museum. We were in position 49, about halfway through the parade.
We fell in by height, tallest in front and to the right. CPT Mike Wojta called cadence. The 890th marched behind us. The crowds were enthusiastic and applauded practically the whole way. The weather was ideal, sunny with scattered clouds. Even a brief rain squall just before the end was brief enough to be refreshing. After we reached the end point, there were a few other brief showers, including one really intense one that lasted only a minute or two and got the remaining marchers pretty wet. Everybody should get to merch in a parade at some point in their lives
We flew to my parents' home in the San Francisco Bay area for two weeks. After we collected our bags, we walked out to the curb to see a big white stretch limo. I joked "Oh you shouldn't have!" My sister Louise said "that is yours" - she had rented it for us as a welcome-home surprise! So we rode home in a limo, complete with bar and TV set. When we got home, the house was decorated with 300 red, white, and blue balloons, and our bedroom was filled with 100 yellow balloons. They had planned to fill the room to the ceiling but fortunately they ran out of balloons when the room was barely knee-deep. We returned to Green Bay August 11. I spotted a bag on the turntable as we collected our baggage. It was marked John Bestul. He was part of the advance party, but could not deploy because of his knee, so he ended up in the Public Affairs Office in Stuttgart, and just got back the day before.
Christopher and I drove to Appleton to welcome home the 395th Ordnance Company, the last unit from this area to return. Also representing the 432nd were LTC CHristopherson, CPT Elliott, SFC Russ Oestreich (a member of the stay-behind crew in Turkey), SSG Don Hansen, SSG Dale Lapacz, and SSG Connie MacNamara. Former MAJ Chuck Sanders, Connie's husband, was also there. I brought along Saudi and Kuwaiti flags, and the others brought a big 432nd banner. They seemed to appreciate it.
Our first drill weekend. Like all September weekends, it was a field weekend at Bear Paw Scout Camp. There was very little we could do since all our gear is still in transit, so it was a very laid-back weekend. We did a little common-task training. I did a slide show Saturday evening. We met some new people who joined while we were gone, the members of the stay-behind party who stayed on a few weeks longer in Turkey, as well as some of the old-timers who couldn't deploy. They were pretty concerned with how they'd be received, but they all stayed home for reasons beyond their control*, and I don't think anyone holds it against them.
*Mostly because the swaggering phony commanding USACAPOC at the time, BG Hurteau, wanted to appear studly to the rest of Special Operations and refused to let them deploy because they couldn't do the two mile run, even though they passed the alternate event. I later heard of him keeping other valuable people from other units behind, as well. If I had my way, he'd have been court martialed for sabotage and spent the rest of his days in Leavenworth.
The last member of the unit still on duty came home today. MAJ Gary Bomske, who stayed in Fort Bragg because of his stomach surgery, came home on the 1255 flight. The reception committee included Don Hansen, Dale Pagel, Bill Bartelme, Max Mitchell, Cindy Hermsen, Mrs. Jim Eliason, and me.
Our Conex containers from Turkey arrived tonight, and a party of 18 or so volunteers spent an hour and a half unloading them. All our people and all our gear are finally home.
I downloaded my journal, which I finished typing and editing at home a few days ago, into the computer on campus and uploaded it to MS-DOS. It's finally ready to go.
Created January 10, 2000; Last Update 14 December 2009
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