published Friday, March 8th, 2013

Chattanooga area National Guard troops return after yearlong deployment to Middle East (with video)

Local soldiers return after year in Middle East
Fifty soldiers returned to the Chattanooga Armory after a one-year deployment across the Middle East. The soldiers, part of the 181st Field Artillery unit, left Chattanooga a year ago as part of a 193-soldier contingent assigned in smaller detachments across the Middle East, according to Tennessee Army National Guard officials.
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    Families cheer as buses carrying troops arrive Thursday at the National Guard Armory.
    Photo by Doug Strickland.
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Waiting for her soldier at Chattanooga's National Guard Armory on Thursday, Ramanda Dennison said the past year has been a "roller coaster."

Dennison's husband, Sgt. Adam Dennison, 34, of LaFayette, Ga., was among 193 to return to Chattanooga after a yearlong deployment to the Middle East.

Ramanda, 31, has gone through three deployments with her husband. Troops mustered at Camp Shelby, Miss., during the 2003 Iraq invasion, but that was a false alarm, called off.

But the second, a 2007 deployment to Iraq, was real. And so were her fears.

This time the soldiers with the 1st Battalion of the 181st Field Artillery Regiment deployed to Jordan and Kuwait to train Jordanian troops headed to Afghanistan.

Families and friends in an eventual crowd of about 75 waited more than three hours in the armory parking lot Thursday for the bus carrying nearly 50 soldiers to arrive. There wasn't a ceremony or formation, just a lot of squeals, screams and children yelling "Daddy!" as families hugged and waved homemade signs.

First Lt. John Waller, 30, of Chattanooga, said the soldiers trained 1,400 Jordanian troops in infantry tactics and weapons, culminating in a dayslong training exercise to test what the foreign soldiers had learned.

Knowing that her husband was in less danger helped but not getting to see him for the full year was tough, Ramanda Dennison said.

During the earlier deployment, soldiers usually were allowed to take two weeks' leave and go home for a break. But because they only were overseas for nine months -- the rest of the time was spent training to go and coming back -- families didn't see their soldiers at all.

The couple's 10-year-old son Spencer was looking forward to playing video games with his dad, after so many months of keeping in touch through email and Internet video calls.

Susie Ream, 24, was nervous that she might not recognize her husband's face in the crowd. But she screamed and squeezed him when she found Spc. Eric Ream.

"It's like my wedding day and Christmas," she said.

about Todd South...

Todd South covers courts, poverty, technology, military and veterans for the Times Free Press. He has worked at the paper since 2008 and previously covered crime and safety in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia. Todd’s hometown is Dodge City, Kan. He served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq before returning to school for his journalism degree from the University of Georgia. Todd previously worked at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. Contact ...

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