Fort Campbell, KY – On Saturday, February 9th, 2013 65 soldiers from 1st Squadron, 75th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team “Strike,” returned home to Fort Campbell, Kentucky the home of the 101st Airborne Division (air assault). These soldiers were returning from a nine-month deployment to RC-East in Afghanistan, where they continued the process of training and mentoring the Afghan National Security Forces and the Afghan National Police in preparation for their assumption of responsibility for the Afghan people security in that region.
“For the past 9 months. The Strike advisory teams have been deployed to Eastern Afghanistan, where they were put in charge of transferring combat power over to the Afghan National Security Forces, like the Afghan Army and the Afghan National Police. What that really means in layman terms is that our leaders from Strike were hand-picked to be sent over to help of our Afghan brothers by providing training and mentoring the leadership over there,” said Sgt. Joe Padula, the 2nd Brigade Combat Team’s Public Affairs Officer. “They’ve done an outstanding job!” He said.
This flight and subsequent Welcome Home Ceremony marked the return of the last of the Strike Advisory Teams that were on deployment to the combat zone.
“It is one of the greatest feelings, you can have wearing the uniform, as you watch these guys step off that plane and take their first step onto U.S. soil in 9 months, knowing their families are there waiting for them,” said Sgt. Padula. “Many of the soldiers look up to the sky taking a moment to say thank you to the big man upstairs. I love it! I love watching them come home!”
While waiting for the flight to arrive I had a few moments to speak with some of the family members.
One was Anna Leigh Ussery who was waiting for her soldier Caleb Ussery with her daughter Briley, and Calib’s Dad Gary. “It’s going to be great having him home again,” said Anna. “Our family is going to feel complete again!”
Her husband Caleb is really looking forward to “sleeping in his bed and showering in his own shower,” she said.
Keeping in touch with Caleb while he was away in the combat zone was “better than it had been in the past”, said Anna. “We been able to talk quite frequently by phone, and using Skype on the Internet. As well as using social networking services like Facebook.”
Reintegration is always tough for military families. People change when they are apart in big ways and small. The soldier in the combat zone has likely seen and done things that can cause them to lash out at those that they love most.
While their loved ones are out on deployment, the families back home have had to take up the slack by dealing with issues that the soldier may have normally been responsible for handling. There is a period of readjustment that has to take place to make these families whole again.
“I’m definitely going to be watching for changes to his personality, observing the way he acts I know it is going to be hard for him to adjust to being home with the kids again.” said Anna. “We will deal with any issues one at a time.” She is also looking forward to him resuming his share of the parental responsibility, “While he was gone, I had to be the disciplinarian and I’m going to want to eventually give that off to him.”
Mary Shabunia was waiting with her daughters Carrie and Eorwyn for their dad Charlie. It’s going to be such a relief to have him home safe and sound. He will be here in just a few more minutes! I can hardly wait!” said Mary. When asked what he is looking forward to when he is home again, Mary responded, “He’s really looking forward to spending time relaxing with the family.
For her keeping in touch with her soldier has been much easier, “It hasn’t been bad. We have been facebooking, He was able to call, and we were able to Skype a couple times to so yeah it’s been easier to stay in touch.”
Mary’s missed having someone to come home to, and to share her life with; and she’s looking forward to renewing that aspect of her marriage. But for her daughters Carrie and Eorwyn, it was much simpler… “Having our dad home again will make her happy!” they said together.
The plane touched down at 8:48pm to the cheers of the soldier’s 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 first soldiers appeared in the door. After deplaning as the soldiers walked slowly to the terminal; 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 terminal to take part in the short ceremony that was all that stood between them and their loved ones.
The soldiers drop off their weapons, then the Ceremony officially begins as the soldiers march together into the facility as those in the crowd cheer wildly for them.
There is a brief ceremony consisting of a short prayer of thanks for their return, Madeline Cox was allowed to give a short speech for her dad squadron commander Lt. Col. Clint Cox, followed by remarks by Deputy Commanding General (Support) of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Brigadier General Ronald F. Lewis.
The ceremony concludes with the 101st Airborne Division band playing the Division Song and the Army Song as the soldiers and families sing along. Finally, the soldiers are dismissed concluding the ceremony.
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.
After the visitation time is over the soldiers formed back up, the soldiers marched from the terminal 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 return to their vehicles to go pick up their loved ones once their turn-in was complete.