For the first time in many years, almost all Stryker Brigade soldiers are home for the holidays, taking a break from multiple combat assignments overseas, mainly Afghanistan, that kept them away from their families during this special time of year.
It’s been a busy year for Fort Wainwright’s Ninth Army Band.
The band’s conductor, Chief Warrant Officer Jeff Price, says they’ve played at a lot of welcoming-home ceremonies for Stryker Brigade soldiers, and other U.S. Army-Alaska troops who’ve been returning home after spending many of the past several holidays in faraway combat zones.
“Last December, when we had our holiday concert, over 9,000 of the 13,000 soldiers assigned to Army Alaska were overseas,” Price said. “And so during the course of the year, as the missions ended, they came home. So now, out of the 13,688 of the soldiers that make up Army Alaska, only around 240 are deployed overseas.”
Staff Sgt. Kyle Magers has served three tours of duty overseas, and he’s happy to be home for the holidays – and his wife, Renee, may be even happier.
“This last deployment – it was just a rough year for her up here, first year in Alaska, dealing with everything, between the winter and the house and the dogs. She was pretty burned-out,” Magers said.
Sgt. Jay Serhan says his wife, Brittany is also a soldier who’s recently returned from an overseas tour – and they’re both happy to celebrate the season stateside.
“Being here is actually great,” Serhan said, “because I can see what she’s doing, she can see what I’m doing, and we’re both going through the same experience of being home after spending that time away.”
Army-Alaska spokesman Major Dave Mattox says many but not all of the soldiers with Fort Wainwright’s 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team are here in Fairbanks for the holidays.
“We are pretty blessed in the fact that the Stryker brigade is home this holiday season – most of the brigade is home – in the Fairbanks area or on vacation down in the Lower 48 states visiting their families,” Mattox said.
That’s a departure from the past several years, when most of those soldiers have in both Iraq and, in recent years, Afghanistan.