23 October 2007

Dagger Brigade Soldiers start coming home

Spc. Marcus Leslie walks with his comrades after landing Sunday at Ramstein Air Base in Germany. Photo Ben Bloker / S&S.

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany — After spending most of the last 15 months in one of Baghdad’s most dangerous neighborhoods, 126 members of Task Force 1-26 got to go home Sunday night.

The task force is among the first wave of Schweinfurt, Germany-based troops expected back from Iraq this week and throughout October and November.

“I’ve been in (the Army) for 16 years, and this is one of the tightest companies I’ve been in, and it’s a result of some of the struggles we’ve been through,” said Cpt. Cecil Strickland, commander of Company C, one of three companies that make up Task Force 1-26, which lost 26 soldiers during its 15-month deployment in Iraq.

In Adhamiyah, a Sunni enclave, the task force played a deadly game of cat-and-mouse with the enemy, Strickland said. “As we progressed, they progressed,” he said. “When we adjusted something, they adjusted.”

At least 60 soldiers from Schweinfurt have been killed in combat since the main body of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, known as the “Dagger Brigade,” deployed last year. The brigade has endured the deadliest deployment of any Europe-based U.S. military brigade in Iraq. ...

“We’re all ready to be back,” he said. “It’s been a long 15 months.”

Besides getting to know his family again, Strickland said he was looking forward to sleep and good German beer.

Staff Sgt. Octavio Nunez prepares his bags for customs. Photo Ben Bloker / S&S.

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