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Fort Campbell Welcomes Home 186 Soldiers from the 159th Combat Aviation Brigade

 

Fort Campbell KY, 101st Airborne DivisionFort Campbell, KY – Yesterday Fort Campbell welcomed 186 soldiers from the 159th Combat Aviation Brigade home from a year long deployment to Southern Afghanistan. This was to be the final large group from the 159th Combat Aviation Brigade to return home. As of this point all 8 brigades that comprise the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) are back home at Fort Campbell until elements of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team begins to deploy in the spring.

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

A few weeks ago 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.

Families head outside to see the airplane bearing their loved ones arrive

Families head outside to see the airplane bearing their loved ones arrive

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 aircraft touches down

The aircraft touches down

The flight touched down at 8:05pm 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.

Soldiers pass by their excited families as they head for the hangar

Soldiers pass by their excited families as they head for the hangar

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.

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

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.

CWO Phillip King and his children are reunited with his wife CWO Keona King who just returned from Afghanistan

CWO Phillip King and his children are reunited with his wife CWO Keona King who just returned from Afghanistan

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.

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 last large flight bringing home the soldiers of the 159th Combat Aviation Brigade. It’s been a long 14 months since the first elements of the 101st Airborne Division started returning to Fort Campbell, but we here at Clarksville Online are glad we were able to see it through to the end.  At this time all of the brigade level units are back home at Fort Campbell, a fact that their families, friends, and the surrounding communities are glad of.

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