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Story Last modified at 1:11 p.m. on Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Guard returns home

By Mike Nesper
Alaska Star


CPT Tom Miller salutes during the playing of the National Anthem during a coming home ceremony held for Guardsmen on Friday, July 29 at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.
STAR PHOTO by mike nesper

After being out of the Chugiak-Eagle River area for a year, what would you miss most?

For Cody Bjorklund, a slice from Pizza Man ranks right up there with family and friends. Alaska's cold weather tops Kevan Katkus' list.

Bjorklund, a specialist with the Alaska Army National Guard B Company 1-207th Aviation, Sgt. Katkus and nearly 70 other soldiers were welcomed home Friday, July 29, from a yearlong tour in Iraq at an afternoon gathering at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.

"It's nice seeing all the support from the community," Bjorklund said following the ceremony.

After returning Monday, July 25, Bjorklund was looking forward to dipnetting.


Soldiers stand at attention during the ceremony. Nearly 70 soldiers were welcomed home from a yearlong deployment at the event.

"I can't wait to go out and hike and fish," he said.

If time permits, earning his paragliding license is also on Bjorklund's to-do list. And as for one of his favorite eateries, Bjorklund visited Pizza Man twice and planned another trip Friday, July 29 °©— his third in five days.

After his first tour in Iraq, Katkus said he was looking forward to relaxing. In his civilian life, Katkus is a technician for the Alaska Aviation Safety Foundation.

Bjorklund, a 2008 Chugiak High School graduate, worked as a Black Hawk helicopter crew chief during his first tour overseas. Katkus, a 2007 Chugiak grad, also worked as a Black Hawk crew chief.

B Company executed 2,600 missions and logged nearly 4,000 hours of flying. Their mission consisted of transporting high-ranking dignitaries via helicopters.

Each mission was conducted on time and without a single delay, said Lt. Col. Joseph Streff during his address to the soldiers.

Everyone worked together as one team to accomplish such an impressive feat, Streff said.

Missions were handled as a family, Cpt. Todd Miller, B Company commander, said in his address. Each and every member was critical to the success of each mission, he said.

The entire company had a great attitude and worked well together, Katkus added.

Each speaker also recognized the soldiers' families.

Family is the reason that B Company has such great men and women, Streff said.

"It was a privilege serving with you," Miller said, "and to our family members, we love you."

Words can't describe how much military families must sacrifice, said Col. Cathy Jorgensen.

"We don't have medals to give you," she said, "but we should."

This article published in The Alaska Star on Wednesday, August 3, 2011.