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Fort Campbell Welcomes Home 215 Soldiers from the 159th Combat Aviation Brigade

 

Fort Campbell KY, 101st Airborne DivisionFort Campbell, KY – Yesterday Fort Campbell welcomed 215 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.

Family and friends of the returning soldiers had gathered together to give their loved ones a proper welcome home.This was an early morning flight and in spite of that there was an energy and enthusiasm in the air.

The returning soldiers stand proudly before their loved ones and friends

The returning soldiers stand proudly before their loved ones and friends

Brig. Gen Jeffery N. Colt, the Deputy Commanding General of the 101st Airborne Division is looking forward to having all 29,000 soldiers back on Fort Campbell.”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 touched down at 5:08am

The flight touched down at 5:08am

Soldiers look for their family as they head for the hangar

Soldiers look for their family as they head for the hangar

The flight touched down at 5:08am 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.

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.

The Hangar doors are opened

The Hangar doors are opened

COL William B. Hickman, the Deputy Commander of Operations for the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) addresses the returning soldiers

COL William B. Hickman, the Deputy Commander of Operations for the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) addresses the returning soldiers

There is a brief ceremony consisting of a short prayer of thanks for their return, followed by remarks which this evening were given by COL William B. Hickman, the Deputy Commander of Operations for the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). He thanked  the soldiers for the success of their mission in Afghanistan, the families for their sacrifices during the last year. The Colonel then closed his speech as with a reminder for the soldiers to continue to look out for each other now that they are safe at home once 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.

Daddy's little girls

Daddy's little girls

After the visitation time is over the soldiers form back up, the soldiers march from the hangar 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.

Together Again

Together Again

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 soldiers of the Brigade should be completely home in the next few months. There are flights currently scheduled to arrive on Tuesday and next Monday.

If you wish to attend a Welcome Home Ceremony there is one more large flight left on Monday night at 11:10pm. 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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