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Returning soldiers told ?You'll be needed again ...'

By Ed Brock

Rota, Spain held no allure for Sgt. Tresia Huell with the U.S. Army 52nd Ordnance Group.

She was stuck there this past weekend, along with the other 23 soldiers in the group, stalled in their return home to Fort Gillem in Forest Park by maintenance problems with the airplane that was carrying them away from Kuwait and the war in Iraq.

"They kept finding more problems and you kept hoping you'd get out the next day," Huell said.

It was a long way home for Huell and the others, but by Monday night she was home in Morrow with her husband of seven years Tyrone Huell. A former Army man himself, Tyrone Huell said he's almost used to being separated from his wife.

"But each time feels different," Tyrone Huell said.

The 52nd rolled up to the Neal Fitness Center almost an hour earlier than expected Monday evening but still three days later than scheduled. Family and friends greeted them with hugs as they got off the bus and then whisked them away in short order after a brief ceremony.

Samantha Minugh, 3, was back in the arms of her "Pop," Command Sgt. Maj. James Clifford. Clifford's daughter and Samantha's mother, Marian Minugh of McDonough, stood nearby with a face flooded with tears.

The final delay was hard on them, too.

"It was a little frustrating but we know things like that happen," Minugh said. "They were coming home and that's what's important."

Clifford said that the group spent the beginning of the war in Kuwait but later got to move into Iraq.

"The first time we went into Baghdad was the last week in April," Clifford said.

Clifford's wife, Karen Clifford, was in charge of the family support group for the soldiers' loved ones.

"E-mail's been wonderful," Karen Clifford said. "In the last five days since they started traveling I've had 55 phone calls trying to get things coordinated."

Clifford's mission, and the mission of the rest of the 52nd, is to "conduct force protection operations to defeat or lessen effects of conventional, unconventional (nuclear, biological, chemical or improvised explosive device) and terrorist munitions within its area of operations."

While the 52nd was in action its members disposed of more than 1 million rounds of various kinds of ordnance, the group's commander, Col. Steven Moores, said, including 35,000 rockets, 6,500 mines and 175 improvised explosive devices.

"Of course those are very hazardous," Moores said.

The ordnance disposal unit also earned nine Purple Hearts, Moores said.

Now they will spend this week taking care of their equipment and next week they will begin 30 days of leave during which they can catch up with their families.

"My wife and I will be heading out to Fort Hood (Texas) to visit our son (Army Pvt. 1st Class James Clifford Jr. with the 1st Cavalry)," Clifford said.

Huell had similar plans.

"I'm going to spend as much time as I can with my husband, then I'm going to Florida to see my mom and grandparents," Huell said.

But the war on terrorism is not over yet, Lt. Gen. Dan K. McNeil told the soldiers of the 52nd in his welcome home to them.

"You're going to be needed again," McNeil said. "Rest up and be ready."