ROCKFORD — Illinois Army National Guard Capt. Jonathan Logemann on Sunday for the first time since July was reunited with his wife and two young daughters.


The 33-year-old Auburn High School teacher stepped down from his seat on the Rockford City Council and took a leave of absence from work last year when his unit was called to active duty in Afghanistan as part of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel.


"It feels great," Logemann said. "My two little kids keep running around, chasing me around. I can’t believe they remember me!"


A logistics officer, Logemann spent months at a base in the mountains of Paktia Province on the border with Pakistan. Later, he was stationed in the deserts of Taliban-held Helmand Province in the southwest part of the country.


Logemann returned home to Rockford on Sunday for a one-week leave. The remainder of his active duty period until mid-July will be spent commuting to headquarters in Chicago.


Once his service is complete, Logemann intends to return to the City Council and to work at Auburn High. But Logemann said he has not had a chance to discuss arrangements with Alderman Tony Gasparini, D-2, who was appointed to the seat Logemann vacated.


Logemann, who lives in Rockford with his wife, Sarah, 1-year-old daughter, Maya, and 3-year-old daughter, Eleanor, is a 2009 University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate who taught school in Chicago and joined the National Guard about eight years ago. He was elected to the City Council in 2017.


Roughly 400 soldiers from Illinois’ 1st Battalion, 178th Infantry Regiment were deployed to Afghanistan nearly a year ago. They finally left the war-torn country during a two-day window in April, just before COVID-19 military travel restrictions went into effect. Had the battalion missed that window, they would have been stuck in Afghanistan until June 30, Logemann said.


Instead, they were quarantined at a base about 20 miles outside El Paso, Texas, Logemann said, where there was sporadic phone and internet access.


"Anything outside El Paso is just desert — there’s nothing around there," Logemann said. "It honestly felt like we were still in Afghanistan."


Although many of the soldiers grew restless, Logemann said he didn’t mind the down time. It gave him a chance to catch up on some reading after a hectic, and historic, year in Afghanistan.


Around the time Logemann’s unit first arrived in Afghanistan, President Donald Trump’s administration was in talks with the Taliban to end America’s longest war. That could have led to the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the country after two decades there. Those talks meant plenty of work for logistics officers like Logemann who were forced to contemplate which bases to fortify, which to prepare for closure and how to account for all the equipment, Logemann said.


The killing in January of Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Quds force and mastermind of Iran’s regional security strategy, in a U.S. airstrike ratcheted up tensions with the United States. As Iran vowed revenge, Logemann said his unit was on alert and conducted drills to prepare for missile and other forms of attack. Iran instead targeted a base housing U.S. troops near Baghdad.


Then, a shaky peace deal was reached with the Taliban and other Afghanistan factions weeks before Logemann’s unit left the country.


Logemann said that although this was the first time he has been able to spend time with his family in person in nearly a year, he has been able to talk to them about once a week by phone or video conference, depending on the availabililty of internet service.


"When I picked up my 1-year-old, at first, she was like, ’Who is this guy? This person is only supposed to exist on the phone.’ But we did a funny little game I did before I left, she started laughing and I think it clicked, that ’Hey, I know this guy.’"


Although Logemann says his time overseas was a sacrifice, he views it as part of his duty in service to the community and the nation.


"It was just part of my job," Logemann said. "I think as a teacher in my regular job and as the father of two little girls, you want to make sure you are setting an example of what you do to be a good citizen in your community and as an American. Yes, agreed, it was a sacrifice. But it was also part of my job. I hope I just set a model for my two little girls and also for kids at Auburn, too."


Jeff Kolkey: jkolkey@rrstar.com; @JeffKolkey