Clarksville, TN Online: News, Opinion, Arts & Entertainment.


Fort Campbell Welcomes Home 285 Soldiers from the 159th Combat Aviation Brigade

 

Fort Campbell KY, 101st Airborne DivisionFort Campbell, KY – Yesterday Fort Campbell welcomed 285 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 flight was originally scheduled for Superbowl Sunday, but had been delayed twice until the Tuesday morning return.

Enjoying the what was a beautiful spring-like day the 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 airplane taxis for the disembarkation point while a helicopter flies down the flight line

The airplane taxis for the disembarkation point while a helicopter flies down the flight line

The families cheering as the returning soldiers start to exit the aircraft

The families cheering as the returning soldiers start to exit the aircraft

The flight touched down at  11:05am 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.

Waiting for the soldiers was a comrade who had been wounded in battle, Chief Warrant Officer Kevin Howie, a helicopter pilot who was injured when a bullet came through the floor of his aircraft during a mission in August 2011. Howie, who is still recovering from the wound he received said he would continue flying, “if they’ll let me.” As they went by members of his unit came over to Howie and his wife exchanged greetings and hugs.

CWO Kevin Howie and his wife watch as his fellow soldiers return home safely

CWO Kevin Howie and his wife watch as his fellow soldiers return home safely

When the soldiers had all filed past, 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.

Maj. Gen. James McConville, Commander of the 101st Airborne Division addresses the returning soldiers and their families

Maj. Gen. James McConville, Commander of the 101st Airborne Division addresses the returning soldiers and their families

There is a brief ceremony consisting of a short prayer of thanks for their return, followed by remarks from Maj. Gen. James McConville, Commander of the 101st Airborne Division; who when possible personally welcomes the returning soldiers back home. He addresses the soldiers to thank them for the success of their mission in Afghanistan, the families for their sacrifices during the last year.

Well welcome home, congratulations on a job well done! I am not going to speak very long this afternoon because we were expecting you Sunday night, and I know that I stand between you and your loved ones. But let me just say a couple of things. First I had a chance to visit you in December, and it made me very very proud when I had a chance to talk to Major General James L. Huggins, Jr., the Commander of the 82nd Airborne Division; and he said you all did a phenomenal job! So how about a big hand for these soldiers in front of me.

The crowd was only too happy to oblige and when they settled down again he continued.

You’ve represented this Division very very well and lived up to the legacy of those who have gone before you that have worn this Screaming Eagle patch. I want to give special thanks to the family and friends that are in the audience today. You were here Sunday waiting their arrival, and you have stood steadfast in providing support during this entire deployment, and quite frankly these soldiers couldn’t do what they do, or be who they are  without you, so thank you all!

The General then closed his speech as he always does with a reminder for the soldiers to continue to look out for each other.

Soldiers rush to their families after being dismissed for 20 minutes of family time

Soldiers rush to their families after being dismissed for 20 minutes of family time

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.

Never a dry eye in the house

Never a dry eye in the house

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.

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.


Photo Gallery


About Bill Larson

Sections

News

Topics

, , , , , ,

Comments

You must be logged in to post a comment.


  • Visit Us On FacebookVisit Us On TwitterVisit Us On PinterestVisit Us On YoutubeCheck Our FeedVisit Us On Instagram
  • Personal Controls

    Archives