FORT HOOD — The Waterhouse family came prepared to give Lt. Col. Gustav Waterhouse one Jurassic-sized welcome home Friday afternoon at Sadowski Field in front of III Corps Headquarters.

Although she stood among hundreds, Cassandra Waterhouse was easily spotted, clad in a Tyrannosaurus rex costume, and waived a sign of her father’s face.

“She wanted to embarrass him,” said Kelly Waterhouse, her mother and wife of Gustav Waterhouse.

About 300 of the 350 troops who deployed August 2017 to Iraq in support of Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve – the mission to destroy the Islamic State group – returned home Friday afternoon. Forty-five of the soldiers from the III Corps “Phantom Warriors” headquarters element were welcomed home Sept. 4 from the year-long deployment.

The 350 troops from the headquarters element, to include III Corps and Fort Hood commander Lt. Gen. Paul Funk II and senior enlisted leader Command Sgt. Maj. Michael A. Crosby, deployed just over a year ago to take command of Inherent Resolve, the more than 70-nation coalition charged to defeat ISIS.

“Whether this is your first homecoming or your sixth homecoming, today is tremendously special,” Funk said. “Because the strength of the wolf is the pack and strength of the pack is the wolf, tomorrow we will face new challenges and begin to prepare for the next time our nation calls us to serve. But today, we celebrate being back home.

“I am Funk. I am a Phantom Warrior—Phantom ready, Phantom strong. Honey, I’m home.”

When III Corps assumed the mission on Sept. 5, 2017, ISIS still controlled a large amount of terrain both in Iraq and Syria, with millions of civilians subjugated to its reign of terror, Funk said in a May 2018 interview.

The majority of that terrain has been recaptured since then, and civilians have been liberated under the direction of III Corps’ leadership of the coalition.

Gustav Waterhouse had been awake since 6 p.m. Wednesday, and away from his family for 392 days.

On the work he's done in that time, the soldier said his team has brought hope to those who otherwise wouldn't have hope against an evil that needs to go away.

“This has been my fifth deployment, and it doesn’t get any easier,” Gustav Waterhouse said. “I feel much more complete now that I have my wife and kids.”

Gustav Waterhouse paused when asked what he missed the most.

“Everything,” he said. “I miss watching my kids grow up. I miss helping them with their school work and helping my wife.”

The Phantom Warriors transferred authority of the mission against ISIS to the 18th Airborne Corps from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, on Monday. | 254-501-7553

Herald staff writer

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