Ore. Guard deployment numbers dwindle

SALEM — For several months 4-year-old Jarrod Waldroop has been dressing up as a one superhero or another. But one day when his mother, Stephanie, asked who he was going to be that day, he passed on the comic-book types.

"I want to be Daddy," Jarrod said.

So, on Monday, he wore a matching camouflage uniform when he was scooped into the arms of a father who'd been gone more than a year, deployed with an Oregon National Guard contingent in in Afghanistan.

"Sometimes I dress up like this," the youngster said, straightening his shirt. Why? "For my daddy can come home."

"It's a blast," said Spc. Joaquin Waldroop after grabbing Jarrod and his 3-year-old daughter, Aria, at the airport in Salem. "It's like a culmination of all the work we've done.... It's a blessing, a privilege, a joy."

The return of more than 120 members of the 1249 Engineer Battalion leaves about 220 Oregon Air and Army National Guard members in Afghanistan, said Oregon Military Department spokesman Capt. Stephen Bomar. None remain in Iraq, he told the Salem Statesman Journal reported.

The unit worked on construction projects and command-and-control missions in eastern and northern Afghanistan. They arrived last week at Fort Dix, N.J. About 50 soldier engineers from the unit had returned to the Salem airport late last week.

"The big thing is these troops are home for the holidays," Bomar said.

Lt. Col. Kevin Dial of Keizer, the commander of the battalion, returned to a family that has gone through changes.

"We had three surgeries while he was gone, lots of milestones, boot camp being graduated from," said his wife, Danielle. Their eldest son Dakota, 19 and a Guard member, finished boot camp.

As she watched, her husband disembark onto a red carpet rolled onto the tarmac, Danielle Dial said she was thinking, "It's about time. We're ready for this."

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