Back on the home front

Wednesday, February 27, 2002

Company B adjusts to life after the Olympics

By Scott Moyers ~ Southeast Missourian

Last week he was Capt. Christopher Mickan, commanding officer of Company B, 1140th Engineer Combat Battalion. This week he's Chris Mickan, supervisor at Biokyowa Inc.

Last week he was wearing full Army gear and carrying an M-16 rifle at the world's most prestigious sporting event near Salt Lake City, serving as the leader of 100 soldiers.

This week he's back in his civies, living at his home in Jackson with his three children and his wife, where he needs to fix the garage door before going back to work producing industrial-grade amino acids.

Surely there's been a bit of adjustment going from two such dramatically different places.

"They are really two different worlds, so, yeah, there has been a bit of an adjustment," Mickan said a day after the soldiers got home from their 31-day tour of duty providing extra security at the 2002 Winter Olympics.The Guardsmen were charged with helping protect the lives of the 1.6 million spectators.

Mickan said it was an exciting time in which the company -- based in Perryville and Jackson, Mo. -- helped perform body checks and vehicle searches, but he's looking forward to a slower pace.

"Here, I have a job that ends at a certain time," he said. "There, it's 24 hours a day. Even when we were off, I had to worry about the guys getting chow, sending some to a medical clinic or something. Here, it's not as high speed or high key."

Back to life

Many of the soldiers said they were glad to come home to family, loved ones and work. But they said it has required some small effort to get out of the military mindset and back to civilian life.

"When you're into that environment for 30 days, there's some adjusting to do," said Sgt. 1st Class Chad Craft, who is a full-time guardsman who lives in Jackson. "It's just nice to take a relaxing shower and sleep in my own bed."

Craft, who doesn't go back to work with the Guard until Monday, also has to get to know his first child, who was born while the soldiers were in Utah. While Craft did get to come home for the delivery, he reported back for duty two days later.

When he got home on Monday, little Caleb Phillip wouldn't let his father sleep. But it wasn't from crying.

"I kept waking up and looking at him and my wife both," Craft said. "Being away always makes you appreciate things you take for granted and how fortunate we all are."

His son had gained a pound and grown more than 2 inches while he was gone.

"All the little things I think a husband and wife work through on their first child, my wife went through that on her own," he said. "Now I'm a month behind her, and I'm learning how to pick him up, take the car seat in and out of the vehicle and everything else."

Back to routines

Others didn't come home to such drastic changes.

Diane Kohm, wife of Sgt. Paul Kohm of Perryville, Mo., said they fell back into family routine fairly quickly.

"It's almost like it never happened," she said. "It's the same as summer camp. It's been amazing how things have fallen back into place."

In fact, Kohm said there have been some peripheral advantages to her husband being away.

"I think we appreciate each other a lot more," Kohm said. "If you don't have that sort of absence, you don't realize what the other person does to complement you."

Staff Sgt. Edward Dulaney of St. Charles, Mo., said he came home to realize the problems he left behind weren't so big. While things like bills and clogged-up sinks are frustrating, he said family is the most important thing.

"Those problems that I had were problems that really aren't that significant," he said. "You come back and it's like they're really not that important."

Mickan said the world away from Salt Lake is slower paced and may seem pedestrian in comparison, but it's really not.

"We went there and we did our job," he said. "But now we're home and it's the real world. It's the best place to be."

335-6611, extension 137

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