NEWS | April 18, 2019

Utah Guard’s “Big Red” Artillery Battalion Returns from Middle East Deployment

By Ileen Kennedy UTNG Public Affairs, Public Information Officer

The crowd at the Roland R. Wright Air Base erupted in cheers as the police escorted plane taxied up to the large north hangar doors with approximately 100 Soldiers from
Echo Battery, 1st Battalion, 145th Field Artillery, “Big Red” returned from a 10-month Middle East deployment April 9. 

Jill Peck didn’t tell her two children, seven-year-old Twila and 10-year old Cash, that there dad, 1st Sgt. Shālee Peck was coming home. Jill waited until she was parking at the Wright Air Base to see her children’s expressions. 

“This is where my dad went. I think this is where he left,” said Twila. After looking out the vehicle’s window and seeing other families gather she turns to her mom and asks, “Is dad coming home? I’m wondering if my dad’s coming home,” and then as realization comes she squeals. “Dad’s coming home today, Cash, dads coming home today!”

As Twila waits in the hangar with her family for her dad’s plane to arrive her excitement continues to grow.  

“My dad’s coming home, I’m going to squeeze him so hard, harder than I ever have before,” Twila said.  “I’m going to tell him I missed you so, so, so much.”

First Sgt. Shālee Peck was one of the first out the doors of the plane, but Twila had to wait, watching him as he held the unit’s guideon at the top of the stairs and shook hands with each one of his soldiers as they de-boarded the plane to the embraces of their loved ones. Twila’s dad was the last to walk down the stairs. Twila’s excitement couldn’t be contained any longer as she runs into her dad’s arms and squeezes him tight. 

“It’s amazing to be home,” said Peck. “They have grown like weeds since I’ve been gone.”

“I’m really excited. I can’t really put into words how I’m feeling now,” said Mallory Ferron, wife of Spc. Bryan Ferron, while holding her three-month-old daughter and waiting to find her husband’s face in the crowd. Bryan was able to be home on leave for the birth of his daughter. 

“He was home for two weeks, one week after she was born,” said Mallory. “When he had to go back it was not easy. I had to take care of a lot of things by myself while also having a lot of change, but you kind of get used to being alone.” 

After the Ferron’s embrace, Bryan takes his young daughter in his arms anxious to show some of his fellow soldiers his new daughter. 

“I saw her when she was born, she was a lot littler then,” said Bryan. “She’s a lot different now. She’s holding her head up. I have two sons too that I’m going to go surprise at school. They are nine and five. They think I’m coming (home) later this week so I’m going to go surprise them in class.”

“I’m going to miss being with all the guys,” said Bryan.  “I’ve been with them for a year and there were a lot of hard days and good days, but it’s good to be back with the family, that’s who we do it for.” 

The Big Red, Utah’s oldest military unit, deployed in support of Operation Spartan Shield and Operation Inherent Resolve, providing vital security support and conducting artillery missions with Middle Eastern partners.