FORT HOOD — Getting out of the house with four children in tow is a challenge.
Doing so while Dad is deployed and three are under age 3 is nearly impossible, said Evelyn Ramgel as she waited in the West Fort Hood Physical Fitness Center for her husband, Sgt. William Ortiz, to come home.
But while she admits she’s ready for some personal time to dote on herself, or even just go grocery shopping again, it’s bonding and family time that she is most looking forward to as Ortiz returned from a year in Afghanistan with 13th Sustainment Command.
“If I can make it through this, I can make it through anything,” Ramgel said as she pushed the double stroller holding her 1-year-old twin girls.
Two-year-old Giselle Ortiz danced with other children on the floor of the basketball court, as families waited for more than 120 soldiers, who arrived nearly two hours later than expected.
The “Lucky 13th” deployed for its NATO training mission in December 2011 to work with Afghan National Security Forces on the country’s logistics systems.
It was the first time the unit deployed to Afghanistan, and also the first time they served in a training role, as opposed to providing supplies and logistics to U.S. forces, and the unit’s Command Sgt. Maj. Terry Parham Sr., said he is proud of the work his soldiers conducted.
“As the mission evolved, we evolved,” he said. “Tremendous things happened every day, but there’s nothing like finishing a mission.”
The command was the first to deploy on the mission, providing around 150 soldiers who served across Afghanistan, with the command team based out of Camp Eggers. Because it was a NATO mission, the unit’s soldiers worked with service members from about 38 other countries on a daily basis.
The goal of the mission was to develop, train and field Afghan security force personnel so they can be more efficient and self-sustaining. U.S. Army Europe’s 16th Sustainment Brigade, out of Germany, will continue the work the Lucky 13th started.
“It was a great mission and great to go out on the mission, but it’s better for it to be complete,” Parham said.
Brig. Gen. Clark LeMasters, commander of the unit, said families should be proud of the work of their soldiers.
“We accomplished a mission a unit like ours was not designed for,” he said after uncasing the colors. “I hope you’re as proud of ’em as I am, because they made a difference. They had an impact on the Afghan army and national police.”
When the soldiers were released to their families, Ortiz quickly found his wife and children waiting in the back. His 8-year-old son clung to his arm and his daughters stared at him in awe.
“It’s a good feeling,” Ortiz said of being home. “I’m going to spend time with my family and make the best of it. We’re going to have a lot of good, quality time together.”
Contact Rose L. Thayer at email@example.com or (254) 501-7463. Follow her on Twitter at KDHmilitary.