By Sean Wardwell
Killeen Daily Herald
FORT HOOD — Andrew Bailey, 7, finally got the thing he wanted the most in the past 11 months — a hug from his dad.
Chief Warrant Officer-2 Ashton Bailey, or “dad,” was one of 72 soldiers with the headquarters company of the 553rd Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 4th Sustainment Brigade, 13th Sustainment Command, who were welcomed home Saturday morning from an 11-month deployment to Kuwait.
Families crowded the West Fort Hood Athletic Center, some dancing in anticipation, waiting to welcome back their loved ones just in time for the holidays.
“I cannot wait. I am so excited. Every time I think about it, I tear up,” said Cynthia Bailey, wife of Ashton Bailey, before the ceremony. “On a scale of one to 10, I’d say I missed him a million, or infinity.”
As soon as the unit was dismissed, she and her three children immediately leapt into the chief warrant officer’s arms for a long embrace.
“It feels great,” said Ashton Bailey, an information systems technician, adding he plans to spend the holidays with his loved ones.
“It’s great. I was hoping (to be home for Christmas) and I got exactly what I wanted,” said Spc. Kevin Koite, who returned with headquarters company. Koite had 14 members of his family waiting, including his wife, Gaby.
“I want him here already. I’m getting impatient,” she said, joking shortly before the company arrived.
The battalion ran the Four Corners Operation, greeting soldiers as they arrived in Kuwait from Operation New Dawn in Iraq, taking and recycling their equipment and preparing them to redeploy back to the United States. The unit also supported Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.
Lt. Col Matt Melvin, the battalion’s commander, said the tempo of the mission increased substantially when President Barack Obama announced the drawdown of American troops in Iraq on Oct. 21.
“The funnel got filled quickly. (Units) started to speed up and come into the Four Corners Operation,” he said. “We were working longer hours over a more condensed space of time in order to get those soldiers home before Christmas.”
Melvin said the drawdown of troops allowed them to come home 30 days sooner than expected. “We got a nice Christmas present, so we’re very happy,” he said.
The headquarters company is the last of the battalion’s units to come home from overseas.