69th Defense Artillery

Staff Sgt. Sherri Killion, an intelligence specialist in the 69th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, holds her daughter for the first time in nine months at Soldiers Field on Oct. 11 after returning from a deployment to Southwest Asia.

Sgt. Maria L. Kappell | U.S. Army

After nine months deployed overseas to Southwest Asia, the soldiers of the 69th Air Defense Artillery Brigade’s Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment returned home Oct. 11 after successfully “Guarding the Skies” throughout five countries in the Central Command area of operations.

The brigade was the right unit, at the right place, and at the right time, said Col. Brian W. Gibson, the brigade’s commander.

During their deployment, the soldiers participated in multiple internal training events, aiming to improve their own capabilities and readiness, and the unit also conducted numerous exercises with host nation partners. Many of the exercises focused on increased force protection measures, ensuring all locations were secure and soldiers were safe while in the deployed environment.

The brigade also had to continuously be vigilant and prepared for crisis, especially as the nation contemplated updated military action within the region.

“There is no doubt the world was watching them,” Gibson said. “What they accomplished is staggering, and will have lasting positive impact throughout the region.”

Through the missions during the deployment, the soldiers were able to maintain their focus and drive in achieving fitness, education and other self-improvement goals. However, while accomplishing their own goals, the soldiers never placed the unit’s objectives on hold, as the headquarters was responsible for more than 1,900 soldiers and civilians, three subordinate battalions, 11 Patriot batteries, and a strategically vital radar site.

“The Lightning team should be rightfully proud of their many successes,” Gibson said.

Among the many friends and families welcoming home the detachment, Maj. Gen. Anthony Ierardi, the 1st Cavalry Division commander, was there to offer a warm reception. He said the soldiers “served the country with courage and honor.”

The headquarters detachment returned to Soldiers Field to find scores of people cheering for their arrival. The soldiers unloaded from the buses and marched onto the field, ready to see their loved ones for the first time in months. Before the soldiers were released to their families, the brigade uncased its colors, officially signifying the Lightning Brigade’s return.

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