***image1***Members of the 574th Supply and Services Company returned home last week to both cheers and tears of happiness after completing a year-long rotation to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The company, part of the 28th Transportation Battalion, 37th Transportation Command, returned 85 Soldiers to their families Dec. 28. Another 11 are still in Kuwait, ensuring that the unit’s equipment is properly returned to Germany.
The gathered families waited about 90 minutes for the troops to arrive, and many noted how both excited and nervous they were. For some of the children, it would be the first sight of their father. As they waited for their wives and husbands to arrive, many reflected on what the reunion meant to them.
“There just aren’t words to describe how I feel,” said Veronica Apodaca, wife of Spc. Paul Apodaca. “My son is 13 months old, and his father has only spent about four weeks of his life with him. He’s really excited to see his boy again.”
Many spouses said they put off celebrating Christmas until this week so the families could enjoy the holiday together.
“We have gifts under the tree for her,” said 574th Commander Capt. Natalie Rolling-Edlebeck’s son, Benji. “I got her a boot-shining kit.”
After the buses arrived and the troops filed into the sports arena, Captain Rolling-Edlebeck spoke proudly of her unit’s accomplishments during its time in Iraq.
“As a commander, it’s always your dream to take your unit into the field for a real-world mission, accomplish it really well, and then come back home with everyone, she said.
In Iraq, the 574th established its headquarters at Logistical Support Area Anaconda, about 50 kilometers north of Baghdad, where the unit helped keep the massive post running taking care of up to 300 separate units.
The 574th eventually deployed troops to four different locations in Iraq, including Baghdad. In all, the unit delivered more than 80 million gallons of fuel and 200 million gallons of water in support of coalition forces.
They accomplished all this without losing a single Soldier, although the unit did come under fire more than once, said Captain Rolling-Edlebeck.
“We began armoring the vehicles after one of the trucks took a bullet through the cab,” said Sgt. Jamal K. Adams, a fuel handling specialist. “But it’s worth it, ‘cause when you roll into the gate with a full load of fuel and see they’re almost out, you feel good about making a difference.”
The spouses and children of the 574th expressed their happiness in many ways, some by laughing and talking with their returned loved ones, and some by simply hugging.
“I’m just happy he got back safe,” said Anja Tulk, wife of Company 1st Sgt. Larry Tulk. “That’s the best Christmas present for me.”