WEST FORT HOOD — Three-year-old Evelynn Mcafee didn’t believe her grandmother when she told her she’d finally get to see her mom.
“She thought I was lying to her when I said, ‘We’re going to go see mommy’ and we got to the airport and mommy wasn’t there,” said Bertha Gutierrez, of Indiana, who took care of Evelynn for the past year while her mom, 1st Lt. Desirae Gutierrez, was deployed to Afghanistan with the 306th Military Intelligence Battalion, 470th Military Intelligence Brigade.
On Monday, Evelynn finally believed her grandmother when a bus carrying the soldiers arrived at the Robert Gray Army Airfield hangar.
She squirmed as she tried to jump off her uncle’s shoulders and onto the floor. And, when the soldiers were released from formation, Evelynn ran into her mother’s arms.
“It doesn’t seem real,” said Gutierrez, who returned to Fort Hood after her first deployment.
The 66 battalion soldiers who returned Monday are part of Task Force ODIN (Observe, Detect, Identify and Neutralize), which provides intelligence for forces in Afghanistan.
The task force has consecutively rotated soldiers to the country since 2008.
Brigade commander Col. Timothy Chafos said soldiers completed about 20,000 missions and logged 90,000 flight hours downrange while supporting multiple ground forces and Afghan coalition partners during the yearlong deployment.
“They delivered advance intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance from the air to support our troops (in every regional command in Afghanistan),” Chafos said. “They helped protect our troops and keep them out of contact and they helped assist our troops directly in engaging, destroying or capturing the enemy.”
Near the end of the deployment, Chafos said there was “a little more focus on transitioning some of their intelligence support to the Afghan National Army, who will take on more of the mission as we transition to lower U.S. presence.”
As Bertha Gutierrez welcomed her daughter home, she spent the weekend saying goodbye to a son, who deployed overseas with a unit out of Indiana.
“My husband was in the Army. We traveled everywhere. Military is something they like,” she said. “I’m very, very proud of (them).”