FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. (June 29, 2009) — The first of two groups of soldiers from the 5th Engineer Battalion returned late Sunday night to the United States after a deployment lasting nearly a year and a half.
According to post spokesman Mike Alley, about 200 members of the battalion returned this weekend; another similar-sized group is expected to return later this week. Times and dates for the second group of soldiers to return haven’t been announced and could be affected by many factors.
During the 15-month tour of duty in Iraq, the 5th Engineers focused on route clearance and construction operations. According to the Department of Defense, six months of that work involved cooperation in Diyala province with an Iraqi engineer unit, coincidentally with the same unit number — the 5th Iraqi Army Engineer Regiment.
“Working with the 5th Iraqi Army Engineers is my number one priority while here in Iraq,” said Lt. Col. Joel Cross, the commander of the 5th Engineer Battalion, in an interview last year with Mulitnational Corps public affairs personnel in Iraq.
“It is a tremendous opportunity to make a difference for Iraq and the sooner they achieve full operational capability the sooner we will be able to go home, permanently,” Cross said.
The return of the 5th Engineers is part of a regularly scheduled return to the United States, but it coincides with a plan by the Department of Defense to pull troops out of Iraqi cities by June 30.
The 5th Engineers lost one soldier shortly before their expected return to Fort Leonard Wood: Spec. Charles D. Parrish, 23, of Jasper, Ala., who died June 4 in the Iraqi city of Balad due to wounds suffered earlier that day. According to a Fort Leonard Wood press release, Parrish’s vehicle was hit in the Iraqi city of Jalula by a cold-war era anti-tank grenade.
Public Affairs Office personnel in Iraq prepared a number of articles on the work of the 5th Engineers in Iraq during their tour of duty, linked here: