comscore Schofield team likely will not be sent again to Afghanistan | Honolulu Star-Advertiser
Hawaii News

Schofield team likely will not be sent again to Afghanistan

Honolulu Star-Advertiser logo
Unlimited access to premium stories for as low as $12.95 /mo.
Get It Now
    Pfc. Ryan Smith, above left, got an unexpected visit from his mother, Debbie Sackuvich, who gave him a big hug after he returned from Af­ghani­stan Tuesday at Wheeler Army Airfield.
    1st Lt. Jonathan King, top, looked into the eyes of his 4-month old daughter, Lily, for the first time. King and other soldiers from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team were reunited with friends and family after a yearlong deployment.

Photo Gallery: Soldiers return home

For many of the 3,500 Schofield Barracks soldiers now returning from Af­ghani­stan, a decade of war in two countries finally may be over.

Time to readjust and reset means the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, which lost 18 soldiers and had at least 257 wounded on the deployment, likely won’t be going back to Af­ghani­stan, soldiers said Tuesday.

The Iraq War ended in December, meanwhile, with other Schofield soldiers among the last to leave.

"What do I think? I’m glad it’s over. I’m just done. I’m done with deployments for a while," said Sgt. Timothy Miller, one of 236 soldiers to return Tuesday in the largest wave so far after a year in Af­ghani­stan. "Out of the last three years, I’ve been gone for two of them, so it’s time to stay home for a while."

Miller hugged and kissed his wife, Casey, during their reunion in a hangar at Wheeler Army Airfield. He hugged his son, Jayce, 3, who was born while he was in Iraq on the last deployment, then kissed his wife again.

"I’m super happy. I’m ready for us to be a family now," Casey Miller said.

The 3rd Brigade’s redeployment timing means the unit likely will not get orders to Af­ghani­stan again, with that war starting to wind down.

"Historically it’s an amazing thing. After 10 years of constant conflict, we’re looking at not having to deal with that anymore. It’s a good thing," said Spc. Adam Vinson, 26, who worked as a welder at Forward Operating Base Shinwar in Nangarhar province.

With the Iraq War over and the United States expected to be out of Af­ghani­stan by the end of 2014, a battle of budget cuts is what soldiers will face next.

Vinson, who plans to make the Army his career, said he isn’t worried.

"Not really. You keep your nose clean, you do what you are supposed to do, they’ll keep you in," he said.

The 3rd Brigade had responsibility for a notoriously dangerous part of eastern Af­ghani­stan in Kunar and Nangarhar provinces.

"Hard, crazy, the mountains were tough," is how Spc. Vincent Vernum, 23, described the deployment.

The Glens Falls, N.Y., man was part of the 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment and was at Forward Operating Base Fortress in Kunar, where the Schofield soldiers conducted foot and vehicle patrols and air assaults.

The soldiers would take heavy machine gun, mortar and sniper fire on base and on patrols, he said.

Spring and summer saw an increase in firefights, and in the fall and winter it would calm down but the soldiers would still be attacked, said Vernum, who was on crutches Tuesday after falling off a truck and breaking bones in his ankle and leg.

The 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry lost 2nd Lt. Clovis T. Ray, 34, of San Antonio to an improvised explosive device on Thursday while he was on a patrol with his platoon. He leaves behind a wife and 5-year-old son in Hawaii.

Vernum said he knew Ray.

"It’s tough and it sucks being that everyone’s coming home," Vernum said.

The brigade deployed to Af­ghani­stan last March and April after returning from Iraq about a year and a half earlier. This deployment is the 3rd Brigade’s fourth to Iraq and Af­ghani­stan since 2004.

More than 400 3rd Brigade soldiers were already home before Tuesday, having started to return in January in relatively small groups. The rest of the brigade will return in coming weeks.

More than 400 family members and friends waited impatiently in the hangar with balloons, signs and lots of baby strollers.

The soldiers marched in formation to the theme from "Rocky" and to the screams of their greeters.

Debbie Sackuvich flew in from Kansas City, Kan., and surprised her son, Pfc. Ryan Smith, 22.

Warrant Officer 1 Michael Inchausti, a friend of Smith’s, and Inchausti’s wife, Sierra, decided Smith should have a family member to greet him and paid for Sackuvich to fly to Hawaii.

"It’s amazing. I’m speechless," Sackuvich said of the gesture.

THE yearlong deployment has been hard on her son, who was a scout with the 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment at FOB Shinwar, she said.

"The community around him, they did appreciate the work they did for the most part, but it was still very difficult for (the U.S. soldiers) because they didn’t know who to trust," Sackuvich said.

The last month was particularly difficult because of the violence over the Koran burnings by U.S. forces and more recently the killings of 16 civilians, allegedly by a U.S. staff sergeant.

"He felt that unfortunately, some of their work might have gotten damaged because of that," Sackuvich said.

Comments have been disabled for this story...

Click here to see our full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak. Submit your coronavirus news tip.

Be the first to know
Get web push notifications from Star-Advertiser when the next breaking story happens — it's FREE! You just need a supported web browser.
Subscribe for this feature

Scroll Up