Signal brigade returns today

During the 11-month deployment in Iraq, the 35th Signal Brigade supervised, at its peak, more than 70 communication sites spread throughout 17 provinces.

Ecstatic.

That's the word Capt. Gregory Van Bemden uses to describe the mood at Fort Gordon as the post's largest detachment begins returning home today.

Van Bemden, who was deployed with his unit, the 35th Signal Brigade, for the first half of its 11 months in Iraq, said everyone feels good about completing the mission and seeing loved ones again.

"They are pretty excited to come home and see their families," he said.

While in the field, most of the roughly 600 soldiers returning this week provided tactical communications to other units. Basically, with the help of electric generators and other equipment, they set up communications in areas off the beaten path.

"These are the mobile-type communications packages that we can set up in the middle of nowhere," Van Bemden said. "They might send a team of four or five guys out in the middle of nowhere in the Iraqi desert to provide communications for a small site."

At its peak, the 35th Signal Brigade supervised more than 70 communication sites spread throughout 17 provinces in Iraq, but as forces were drawn down that number dwindled, Van Bemden said.

This was the second and last time the brigade headquarters has deployed to Iraq, he said.

Also returning home this week is the 67th Signal Battalion, which deployed under the brigade headquarters for its third tour in Iraq.

Family and loved ones will gather inside the post's Gymnasium 5 for two ceremonies welcoming the soldiers home. The first will be today for 300 soldiers. The second will be Thursday for 260 soldiers.

Arrival times depend on flight schedules.

Constituted in 1943, the 35th Signal Brigade is the largest signal unit in the world.