Mr. Speaker, I rise today I rise to acknowledge the significant contributions and sacrifices of the 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team ``Arctic Wolves,'' based out of Ft. Wainwright, Alaska. I would like to congratulate this elite fighting force of men and women who performed with distinction during an unprecedented 16-month deployment in Iraq.
Few units in the history of the Army have developed such a diverse ability to effectively fight in extreme combat situations. The 172nd formed, lived and trained in the harsh Alaska arctic conditions. Alaskan winters have as many as 21 hours of darkness a day and an average daily temperature of 15 degrees. During the initial Iraq deployment in July/August of 2005, these soldiers faced dry, desert conditions in heat topping 120 degrees, quite different from their original training conditions. The ability to adapt and continue to fight insurgents in any environment is one of the many exceptional traits of these Arctic and now, ``Desert Wolves.''
During their tour of duty, the Stryker Brigade had an outstanding combat record and an exceptional reputation for their relationship with the Iraqi citizens. During their service, 5 soldiers were Silver Star Receipts, along with the entire 172nd receiving the Valorous Unit Award. The sacrifices made by these soldiers over the last 16 months were tremendous; 26 soldiers lost their lives and another 381 soldiers were wounded, while in Iraq. The commitment of these soldiers to their Nation is admirable. This brigade, despite their extended tour, had the highest reenlistment rate in the Army with over 33 percent of assigned personnel signing up for the second life cycle.
Along with the contributions our Alaskan service members make on a regular basis to the security of this Nation we cannot forget the difficulties their families face during these deployments. Close to 5,000 Alaskan family members of the 172nd had been without their loved ones for 16 months and waited to be back in their arms of their husbands, wives, sons and daughters. While soldiers were overseas, these families in the Fairbanks community pulled together with resounding resolve. Not only am I proud to represent the Artic Wolves, but I am also proud to represent the great military families of Ft. Wainwright who patiently waited for their brave soldiers to return.
Over the last 4 months, the 172nd has received increased publicity because of their extended deployment, and the families and soldiers were asked to perform duties few are capable of handling. However, I am proud to say that our Arctic Wolves acted with the utmost level of professionalism and heroism on the ground, from the unit commanders to the most junior enlisted ranks. The 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team has made a significant contribution to the proud United States Army military history and I am proud to represent these great American Warriors. On behalf of the state of Alaska, I extend my thanks and appreciation for their exceptional service to this nation. Welcome home, Arctic Wolves.
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