Soldiers from the 4th Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, exit a plane as they return to Fort Hood Thursday after a yearlong deployment to Iraq.

By Rose L. Thayer
Killeen Daily Herald

FORT HOOD — More soldiers from the 1st Cavalry Division’s 4th Brigade arrived at Fort Hood Thursday night after a yearlong deployment to Iraq.

The flight marked the second battalion within the brigade to uncase its colors and officially return home.

The 1st Cavalry Division Band welcomed more than 200 soldiers, mostly from 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, to Fort Hood’s Robert Gray Army Airfield, where they were greeted with a hug from Elizabeth Laird, Fort Hood’s Hug Lady, and checked in their weapons. From there, soldiers were bused to Cooper Field, where family and friends awaited them.

The Head Hunters’ mission in Iraq was to advise, train and assist the Iraqi army, said Lt. Col. John Cushing, the squadron’s commander.

“There’s been a drastic improvement from before, and we definitely left the Iraqis better than when we first met them,” he said.

The squadron was stationed in Mosul, working with the Iraqi army at the Al Ghuzlani Training Center.

“It’s been a great year, and a great team,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Duane Detweiler. “I wouldn’t have wanted to deploy with anyone else. Hopefully we left (Iraq) better than when we found it.”

The Head Hunters uncased their colors during the homecoming ceremony and now join 2nd Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment, stateside.

Sgt. Kenneth Vandell was returning home to his wife and five children following his fifth deployment.

“Our squadron alone put a major footprint, so they are on the path to success,” Vandell said.

When comparing his earlier deployments to this one, he said he could see changes for the best.

“Not only for the Iraqi people and the army, but for the country itself.”