JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas – Soldiers of the 201st Military Intelligence Battalion returned to San Antonio late on the night of Sept. 21 after a year supporting Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.
The more than 100 Soldiers that made up the main body landed at Kelly Field aboard a chartered airliner after a 24-hour delay and a total of 30 hours in the air. Before they could board buses for Fort Sam Houston, the Soldiers had to take care of some paperwork and hear some briefings.
Meanwhile, excitement was building inside the post teen center where family and friends were anxiously waiting for as long as three hours for their Soldiers to arrive. As the Soldiers filed into the building to take their places in formation, the bleachers erupted in boisterous cheers and thunderous applause.
After Lt. Col. Joe Barber, the battalion commander, and Col. Timothy Chafos, 470th MI Brigade commander, exchanged salutes, Chafos made his welcoming comments. He said the battalion’s accomplishment of its intelligence mission “contributed to the protection of coalition and U.S. forces” and to “taking enemies of the United States off the battlefield.”
“It was a successful deployment and an overly successful mission,” Chafos said.
The brigade commander also commended the families for their support of their Soldiers.
“Honor that contribution with an effective reintegration,” he urged. “Take time to get together and get to know each other again.”
Barber and Command Sgt. Maj. Joseph Williams uncased the battalion’s colors, symbolizing the official return of the battalion to Joint Base San Antonio. The ceremony completed, Barber gave the order, “Dismissed!” With that, the bleachers emptied as families rushed to embrace their Soldiers.
“Until I walked in here, everything else was just waiting,” said Sgt. Jason Birmendiz, who was greeted by his wife, Veronica, and three children. He said this had been his first deployment to Afghanistan but that he had previously deployed to Iraq twice with another unit.
His wife said the joyful feeling of having her husband home was “something I can’t explain.”
Sgt. Samuel Poindexter probably had more people gathered around him than anyone. “Mom, Dad, girl friend, sister, brother-in-law, nieces and nephews are all here,” he said as they all took turns hugging him.
Some Soldiers, unfortunately, didn’t have family there to greet them.
“My family is out of state,” said Sgt. Oscar Marroquin. “They couldn’t make it.”
A single Soldier who had just completed his second deployment to Afghanistan with the 201st MI Battalion, Marroquin said he was going to see his mother and father as soon as he could.
“I’m looking forward to a home-cooked meal,” he said, expressing a common sentiment.
“I’ll know I’m home when I taste my wife’s pot-roast,” said Warrant Officer 2 John Flores.
Barber noted that every Soldier who had deployed in his battalion returned safe and sound.
“We had a few ‘medicals’ but no severe injuries,” the battalion commander said. “That’s another indicator of a successful mission.”