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Fort Campbell Welcomes Home 281 Soldiers from the 159th Combat Aviation Brigade

 

Fort Campbell KY, 101st Airborne DivisionFort Campbell, KY – Yesterday Fort Campbell welcomed 281 soldiers from the 159th Combat Aviation Brigade home from a year long deployment to Southern Afghanistan. The 159th Combat Aviation Brigade is one of the last major elements of the 101st Airborne Division still deployed in Afghanistan. The returning soldiers were from the 563rd Aviation Support Battalion “Fighting”; 7th Squadron, 17 Cavalry Regiment   “Pale Horse”; 4th Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment “Eagle Wings”; and 7th Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment “Eagle Lift”.

Family and friends of the returning soldiers had gathered together to give their loved ones a proper welcome home.

The returning soldiers stand proudly before their families and loved ones

The returning soldiers stand proudly before their families and loved ones


Recently I got a chance to speak with Brig. Gen Jeffery N. Colt, the Deputy Commanding General of the 101st Airborne Division for a few minutes, and I asked him how it felt to see nearly all of the 101st Airborne Division back home; as once the 159th has fully returned there will be nearly 29,000 soldiers back on Fort Campbell. “I’m excited,” he responded. “It’s special to see everybody be able to celebrate what is a tremendous achievement all the way around. It’s going to be a great thing for the Division to have a few months with everybody at home to celebrate its accomplishments, reflect on its history, and get ready to move forward again.”

When asked about the 159th Combat Aviation Brigade he said, “The 159th Aviation Brigade has been active in Southern Afghanistan undertaking a full range of missions including assaults, general support, attack aviation, scout and reconnaissance, along with security. The 101st Airborne Division’s air units are a tremendous force enabler, especially in Afghanistan given the ruggedness of the terrain and dispersion of the ground units.” He then gave some high praise to the men of the 159th Combat Aviation Brigade, “Our forces on the ground are some of the 159th Combat Aviation Brigade’s biggest fans! They talk really highly about them,” he said.

15 minutes before the flight arrived the family members were allowed to proceed outdoors to wait on for a chance to see the flight bearing their loved ones arrive.

The flight touches down

The flight touches down

The soldiers head for the hangar

The soldiers head for the hangar

The flight touched down at 10:16pm to the cheers of the soldiers loved ones. After landing the plane taxied to the disembarking point, where the passenger boarding stairs were moved in position. Cheers rose again when the door to the plane opened; and again when the first soldiers appeared in the door. After deplaning as the soldiers walked slowly to the hangar; every soldier’s eyes were focused on the crowd searching for their loved ones. The crowd was doing the same, and as those in the crowd spotted their soldier, they shouted out his or her name to attract their attention.

Family members cheer as their soldier passes by

Family members cheer as their soldier passes by

When the soldiers had passed, the families returned into the hangar to take part in the short ceremony that was all that stood between them and their loved ones.

The Ceremony begins with the opening of the hangar door. The soldiers march into the facility as those in the crowd cheer wildly for them.

Brig. Gen. Jeffery N. Colt, the Deputy Commanding General of the 101st Airborne Division

Brig. Gen. Jeffery N. Colt, the Deputy Commanding General of the 101st Airborne Division

There is a brief ceremony consisting of a short prayer of thanks for their return,  Maj. Gen. James McConville, the Commander of the 101st Airborne Division was unable to attend the flight and was represented by  Brig. Gen. Jeffery N. Colt,  the Deputy Commanding General of the 101st Airborne Division . He addressed the soldiers to thank them for the success of their mission in Afghanistan, the families for their sacrifices during the last year.

Thunder Brigade welcome home! We couldn’t be more proud of you! As a former Thunder 6 you’ve done an incredible job not just for U.S. Forces, but for the coalition and Afghan forces as well. It has been a remarkable tour. In every aspect you’ve taken aviation throughout all of Afghanistan and supported the forces brilliantly. We are so proud to have you home!So on behalf of your Division, your local community, and your Nation thank you for the personal sacrifices and the great service you’ve made. Thank you!To your family members, those here, and those that couldn’t make it here tonight. We are so very grateful for your personal sacrifices and your patience to support these forces and all our forces! God bless you! Air Assault!

The General then closed his speech as he always does with a reminder for the soldiers to continue to look out for each other now that they are home again.

At the conclusion of the ceremony, the Soldiers are given 20 minutes of family time which enables them to begin the reunification process with their families. It’s quite a sight to see as these brave warriors rock hard demeanor melt when they hold their children, and kiss their mothers, wives, or girlfriends for the first time in a year. Believe me, there is never a dry eye in the house.

SSG Joey Huneycutt and Spc. Trina Rice. Honeycutt

SSG Joey Huneycutt and Spc. Trina Rice. Honeycutt

This return was a special moment for SSG Joey Honeycutt and Spc. Trina Rice. Honeycutt had returned early from Afghanistan and planned on surprising Rice when she returned from Afghanistan on this flight. He presented her with an engagement  ring and then proposed to her down on one knee. Rice of course said “Yes!” Speaking to reporters afterwards, she said “I was surprised, happy, and  excited when he asked me; and I am looking forward to spending the rest of my life with him,” she said. The couple is currently planning to have the wedding ceremony sometime in April.

After the visitation time is over the soldiers form back up, the soldiers march from the hanger en masse and board buses to go to their unit to turn in weapons and other sensitive items before they are released to be with their families.

Mustaches

Mustaches

The soldier’s families are then given a short brief on reintegration issues, and then returned to their vehicles. to go pick up their loved ones once their turn-in was complete.

This was the fifth flight of soldiers from the 159th Combat Aviation Brigade to return home. The 3000 plus soldiers of the Brigade should be completely home in the next few months. There is a flight currently scheduled to arrive on Saturday.

If you wish to attend a Welcome Home Ceremony, check the flight schedules online, as times are subject to change at anytime. When arriving to Fort Campbell, enter via Gate 7; if you don’t have installation stickers on your vehicle, you will be required to get a visitor pass. From there just follow the signs to the ceremony parking. Waiting buses transport family members safely to the hanger.

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