150 isle soldiers return home


POSTED: Thursday, December 10, 2009

It was an early Christmas present for some families and soldiers of the 45th Sustainment Brigade, which ended a year's deployment in Afghanistan with a ceremony last night in a hangar at Wheeler Army Airfield.

But not all are home yet. While about 150 men and women in the Schofield Barracks brigade came home yesterday, another 150 soldiers in the unit will return in early January.

“;I can't believe I'm back,”; said Spc. Evangeline Haser-Houston, 26. “;It still feels like I was back in Afghanistan.”;

Her first deployment was easier than she thought, but being away from her 1-year-old son was still tough, she said.

“;He was learning new things and I wasn't there,”; she said. “;When I left, I was still carrying him.”;

“;I just want to go home and spend time with my family,”; she said.

Her husband, Greg Houston, a construction worker with Grace Pacific, took care of their son and 3-year-old daughter alone. “;It was hard,”; he said.

The 45th was the only sustainment brigade in Afghanistan, distributing food, fuel and equipment to all U.S. troops in the country.

About 300 members in the brigade's headquarters unit deployed last January. After arriving, the brigade was in charge of 1,200 troops that carried out the distribution efforts.

By the end of their deployment, the unit's responsibility had increased to commanding 3,300 troops in 27 companies and four battalions because of the surge in forces. They also oversaw the distribution of mail for all troops in Afghanistan.

The brigade also provided training to the Afghan National Army, teaching professional development to noncommissioned officers, combat skills and weapons handling.

The unit had no casualties, but some were injured by homemade bombs, said Army spokesman Master Sgt. David Gillespie.

Several said instant messaging and daily video chats eased the loneliness in Afghanistan.

“;Every single day I spoke to my kids, my wife, and it made it feel as though I was at home,”; said Sgt. 1st Class Ray Polk, returning from his fifth deployment, including both wars in Iraq. “;It didn't even feel like a deployment. It felt like a ... field exercise.”;

“;It's wonderful,”; said his wife, Tara. “;It's exciting to have him back.”;

Maj. Edie Fairbank was greeted by her sons Josh, 10, and Dillon, 9, saying she couldn't wait to spend time with her boys and “;ride my motorcycle.”;'

“;It took us a whole week to get here,”; said Fairbank, a single mother.

Josh said he was “;super-happy”; his mom made it home, quickly wiping tears away.

Her father, Edmando Mangibin, who moved from Hilo to Oahu to take care of his grandsons, brought her manapua.

“;Now that she's back, I can go home,”; he said.