"Knigge!!" yelled a surprised Charlie Battery soldier as he recognized his fellow unit member that had been wounded last May and was evacuated back to the U.S.
Sgt. Brian Knigge was soon over taken by his fellow soldiers with hugs and hand shakes as the entire room erupted in applause for the wounded warrior.
According to a press release from the National Guard received by the Plain Talk Monday, Knigge, as well as approximately 20 other members from the South Dakota National Guard, arrived a day prior to welcome the unit home and ensure the demobilization process runs smoothly.
"Does anyone need to call home?" called Guard support team members as they passed out business and personal cell phones to soldiers to ensure anxiously awaiting families back home were informed of their safe arrival. The soldiers of Charlie Battery are back where they started nearly 16 months ago when it mobilized at Fort Dix but now for the purpose to complete the "demob" process and prepare for a homecoming in South Dakota currently scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 30.
While going through the "demob" process, the soldiers will finalize deployment issues related to their personnel records, finance, medical, health care coverage, equipment, and their benefits and services entitled to them as this nation's newest veterans.
The National Guard currently is finalizing details of the soldiers' return to the South Dakota. That information will be officially released as soon as possible. Check Friday's print edition of the Plain Talk, or look for updates as needed, at www.plaintalk.net.
Charlie Battery is a field artillery unit of the South Dakota Army National Guard – Battery C, 1st Battalion, 147th Field Artillery. Its headquarters is located in Yankton. About half of its members are made of members from Battery A in Mitchell and Battery B in Salem and Sioux Falls.
During its deployment, Charlie Battery lost four soldiers, with another two soldiers still recovering from injuries.
The troops were greeted Saturday by U.S. Rep. Stephanie Herseth (D-SD). As Charlie Battery landed on American soil, they acknowledged their fallen comrades. They include Staff Sgt. Greg Wagner, who died May 8, and Sgt. 1st Class Richard Schild, Staff Sgt. Daniel Cuka and Sgt. Allen Kokesh Jr. They died following a Dec. 4, 2005, incident with an improvised explosive device in southeast Baghdad.
Schild and Cuka died immediately, while Kokesh died as a result of those wounds Feb. 7.
Sgt. Corey Briest was wounded in the same incident and is recovering at a California hospital.
Throughout the past year, these South Dakota National Guard soldiers performed police transition team missions with the Iraqi Police. They conducted joint patrols that included route security and reconnaissance missions in eastern Baghdad, rescue and recovery missions, and convoy wrecker support missions within the capitol city and south into Kuwait. Personal security detachment missions were conducted all over Baghdad, as well as critical site security and convoy security missions throughout Baghdad.
The unit trained more than 1,000 Iraqi Police, creating stability in the southern and eastern strategic districts of Baghdad and enabled a district in the center of Baghdad to become the first to transition the responsibility of security to the Iraqi Police.