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Fort Campbell, KY – The never ending cycling of soldiers between the battlefield to the home front and vise versa continued Wednesday evening with the return of the final flight of 105 soldiers from the 4th Brigade Combat Team (Currahees) who returned up early Saturday morning.
“This deployment was scheduled to be nine months, a good portion of our brigade about 2000 soldiers returned back at the 6-7 month mark. These soldiers returning today Easy Company of the 2nd/506th Infantry Regiment of the HBO Band of Brothers fame. They were contacting a TA Uplift Mission, or a Train, Assist, and Advise Uplift Mission. Easy company was selected because they finished their mission ahead of schedule out of FOB Salerno in the Khost Province of Afghanistan.” said Major Kamil Sztalkoper, 4th Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs
“The soldiers of Easy Company stayed behind providing operational security for the Security Force Advisory and Assistance Teams that were operating out of Forward Operating Bases Lighting, Gamberi, and Fenty in Regional Command East,” he continued.
Speaking about the upcoming in-activation of the 4th Brigade Combat Team he said, “I think it’s a phenomenal event that these are the last of the Currahees to come home. This will mark the last group coming back, capping off a nine-month deployment for these particular soldiers. It going to be the last deployment for the 4th Brigade Combat Team. The 4th Brigade Combat Team is scheduled to be in-activated late spring or early summer, so an April/May time frame. The 1st and 2nd Battalions will still remain within the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), and be merged into two of the other Brigade Combat Teams during that same timeframe. This is basically is a wrap for the 4th Brigade Combat Team, and a perfect way of wrapping up the unit’s storied history.”
A large group of clearly emotional families and friends had gathered together to welcome the returning soldiers home with laughter and tears.
“We’re so” excited said Jessica Ethridge who was on hand waiting with her family for their soldier Chris Ethridge. According to the family Chris is looking forward to spending time with his sons as well as enjoying the opportunity to do some hunting.
The plane touched down at 4:00am 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. A little boy in the crowd repeatedly cried out, “Daddy!”
The plane taxied to its parking spot on the tarmac as the color guard marched forward joining Brig. Gen. Mark Stammer and the other dignitaries at the foot of the stairs leading from the airplane. The doors were cracked open as the families cheered loudly a few minutes later soldiers began streaming down the steps.
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, followed by remarks by Brig. Gen. Mark Stammer, the acting commander of Fort Campbell, KY, while the 101st Airborne Division is deployed to Afghanistan.
Never one to mince words while soldiers are waiting to reunite with their loved ones, Brig. Gen. Mark R Stammer kept it short and to the point! “Welcome back Currhees, and thanks for closing out another great chapter in your history,” he said. “Now go home tonight and take care of your families,” he concluded.
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.
Following the ceremony we were given the opportunity to speak with battalion commander Lt. Col. Scott Kirkpatrick.
About the 4th Brigade Combat Team
The 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment was activated at Camp Toccoa, Ga. on July 20, 1942. The Regiment was given the motto “Currahee,” a Native American Cherokee word which means “stands alone”—a name that would become synonymous with its combat history. On March 1, 1945, the 506th was assigned to the newly formed 101st Airborne Division. The Division’s first commander, Major General William C. Lee observed that “the 101st has no history, but it has a rendezvous with destiny.” The 506th Infantry was destined to write its history in places such as Normandy, Arnhem, Bastogne, the Central Highlands of Vietnam and Cambodia, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
Under Colonel Robert F. Sink’s command, the Regiment proved itself over the skies of France as the lead element of the massive Allied D-Day invasion, June 6, 1944. With the objective to seize the high ground immediately behind the Normandy beach in order to prevent the Germans from reinforcing their shoreline defensive positions, the Regiment distinguished itself as the Soldiers of the 506th successfully conducted a night airborne insertion into German occupied France and secured their objectives. For its exploits at Normandy, the 506th Infantry Regiment received a Presidential Unit Citation. The 506th later parachuted into combat as a part of Operation Market Garden and earned its second Presidential Unit Citation for actions while successfully resisting the vicious German assaults at Bastogne. The final significant event during World War II occurred when the 506th drove into Southeastern Germany and overran Hitler’s famed “Eagle Nest” in Berchtesgaden. On Nov. 30, 1945, the 506th Infantry was inactivated at Auxerre, France.
The 506th was deactivated in 1984. The 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry regiment was later reactivated in 1987, to serve at Camp Greaves in the Korean Demilitarized Zone. They served in Korea until August 2004 when they deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. From August 2004 to July 2005, the 506th made huge strides in reducing the insurgent menace in their battle space. They conducted numerous search, raid, and sweep missions resulting in the detention of hundreds of insurgents and the destruction of tons of weapons and ordinance caches. The 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment deactivated Sept. 15, 2005.
The 506th Infantry Regiment was re-activated on Sept. 15, 2005 at Fort Campbell as the 506th Brigade Combat Team, providing regimental designation to the newly created 4th Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). The entire Brigade, structured under the Army Modularity Concept, deployed for combat a short two months later to Iraq for a year in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom 05-07. The Brigade’s Soldiers added to the rich legacy of the 506th, setting the Army standard for route sanitization, conducting thousands of combat missions in Baghdad and Ar Ramadi, capturing or killing over 1,000 insurgents, and training Iraqi Army and Police forces. The Brigade’s task organization included 22 battalion-sized elements. The 1-506th Infantry Battalion fought in Ar Ramadi, while 2-506th Infantry Battalion fought in South Baghdad. The remainder of the Brigade fought in East Baghdad, securing a population of over 4.9 million residents and landmass of over 1,600 square kilometers. Soon after a successful redeployment, the Brigade, in the midst of personnel and equipment reset, became the Army’s Division Ready Brigade, once again poised for short-notice worldwide operations.
In early 2008, the 4th Brigade once again deployed, this time to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom as part of Task Force Currahee. During its relatively short history, the 506th has fought in three wars on two continents, participating in sixteen campaigns. Each of these honors serves as a district reminder of the unit’s proud heritage, and its dedication to the preservation of freedom.
Topics101st Airborne Division, 4th Brigade Combat Team, Band of Brothers, Currahees, Easy Company, Fort Campbell, Forward Operating Base Fenty, Forward Operating Base Gamberi, Kamil Sztalkoper, Mark Stammer, U.S. Army, Welcome Home Ceremony
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