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Fort Rucker troops return from deployments

Jul 17, 2009

By Marti Gatlin

FORT RUCKER, Ala.--Nearly 100 Soldiers marched into the U.S. Army Aviation Museum greeted by roaring cheers Friday when the Fort Rucker community welcomed home troops of the 164th Theater Airfield Operations Group (TAOG) and 1-58th Airfield Operations Battalion (AOB) from a Middle East deployment.

Fellow servicemembers, Families and friends paid tribute to the Soldiers for their combat service in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait.

The 164th TAOG provided airfield operations and Air Traffic Services (ATS) support for operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. The 1-58th AOB conducted airfield command and control and ATS during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker commander Maj. Gen. James O. Barclay III thanked the Soldiers for their "tremendous efforts" during the deployment.

"Your Families are proud of you, the Army is proud of you and the nation is proud of you. We're glad to get you back at Fort Rucker," he said. "I'm very proud of you. Welcome home."

Col. Jon Goodsmith, who led the TAOG team, said it was humbling to see the many post community members welcoming home the Soldiers.

"Thank you for honoring us," he said. He thanked the Families for their letters, packages and support.

Following the brief ceremony, Soldiers and Families rushed to embrace one another.

As he hugged his wife, Angelia, Master Sgt. John Kelley, 164th TAOG air traffic controller, said he was ready to go swimming and spend time with his Family. He served in Afghanistan during the deployment.

"(This is) routine as an Army wife. The hardest thing was the kids (Samantha, 12, and Matthew, 3) knowing their daddy (had) to go again," Angelia said, noting the Family will reunite through activities such as riding all terrain vehicles and fishing with other Family members in Walnut Grove, Ala.

Master Sgt. Jeremy Payton, 1-58th AOB air traffic controller, clung to his wife, Sheri, and said he realized how much he missed his Family when he saw them.

"It was a very successful mission," Payton said. "Our Soldiers did a wonderful job and surpassed every expectation of this command."

Sheri said the yearlong separation was difficult and challenging, but she had good support from her church and kept busy.

The couple has three children, Vanessa, 11, Jacob, 5, and Samantha, 2, and will travel to Gatlinburg, Tenn., for a week of Family fun.

Master Sgt. Chad Coffman's Family crowded around him following the homecoming ceremony. Coffman served as the 164th TAOG S-3 detachment sergeant major, traveling back and forth between Iraq and Afghanistan. He was away from home for 374 days due to mission constraints.
"I didn't come home on leave. The kids have grown a lot," he said.

"Our mission was to standardize the airfields in the Army Central Command area of responsibility, Iraq and Afghanistan. Honestly we couldn't have picked a better team."

"We're very excited (he's home). He's taking us to Disney World," Anna Coffman said.

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