Fort Campbell, KY – On Friday, Fort Campbell welcomed home the last of the 101st Headquarters and Headquarters Brigade consisting of 24 members of the command group of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) including Commanding General, Maj. Gen. James C. McConville.
They were completing a 9 month long mission in RC-East in support of Operation Enduring Freedom where they were training the Afghan National Army to take over ensuring the security of their own country.
McConville was greeted upon his return by Under Secretary of the Army Dr. Joseph W. Westphal. “Dr. WestPhal is a delighted to be able to come down and welcome the 101st Airborne Division home!” said Ltc Rob Manning, the PAO for Dr. Westphal. “So now is the chance for Dr. Westphal to welcome Maj. Gen. McConville back, and we’re excited.”
In May/June 2012 Westphal payed a visit to Afghanistan along with the former 101st Airborne Division Commander Gen. John F. Campbell to inspect the progress of the Training and Assist Mission in RC-East. “They have been at a very special time in Afghanistan doing very very difficult work. Shifting over to the training and assist mission, continuing to can build the capacity of the Afghan National Army in addition to setting the stage for the future.”
He had high praise for Maj. Gen. McConville and his soldiers “They have had a very very tough and very difficult and complex mission and they have performed an outstanding fashion.”
Speaking about the Welcome Home Ceremony, Westphal said, “I’m delighted to be back here to welcome them back, and welcome home the soldiers of this incredible force.”
Westphal concluded by crediting those who remained at home for their continued support, “I want to say how much we appreciate the support of the community we obviously rely on those soldiers and those families who remain here and who have carried the water for the Army at Fort Campbell in the absence of those brigades that deployed. They of all deployed in the past such great work that they do to keep us trained and ready to go.”
The 24 returning soldiers arrived on a USAF Transport Aircraft that touched down at 4:30pm on Friday. The families were more than ready for their arrival, cheering and waving flags as the aircraft touched down. Maria McConville, the wife of the 101st Airborne Division Commander stood silently in the crowd watching as the aircraft taxied to a halt and the doors were opened.
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 to the cheers of the families and dignitaries who had gathered to welcome the returning soldiers home.
After the prayer given by 101st Airborne Division Deputy Chaplin Maj. Moon Kim, Maj. Gen. McConville and Command Sgt. Maj. Smith uncased the 101st Airborne Division colors,”symbolizing a job well done and a safe return home.”
Then it was time for Maj. Gen. McConville took the podium to make a few remarks
Congressman Whitfield, Mayor McMillan, Sec. Westfall, our CASA’s, distinguished guests families friends, and fellow screaming Eagles thank you so much for a wonderful welcome home.
You know someday when I’m sitting around with my grandchildren; and Jessica there is no hurry.; and they ask me what I did during the war, I will tell them that I served in the 101st Airborne Division, and that I served in Afghanistan. That I served was an extraordinary men and women represented by those standing before you.
I will tell them that while we were there the Afghan Security Forces took the lead in ensuring their security for the first time. And the people and children of Afghanistan have a much better opportunity for future and we hope they take it!
I will tell them that freedom is not free; while we were deployed 34 members of Combined Joint Task Force 101 including 10 screaming Eagles paid the ultimate sacrifice. We can never forget their sacrifice, nor forget their families.
Although the 101st Airborne Division Headquarters and colors are back, Screaming Eagles still remain and harms way with members of the 159th Combat Aviation Brigade and the 2nd Brigade Combat Team still deployed and serving in Afghanistan. I ask you to keep those screaming Eagles in your thoughts and prayers.
I will tell them that were blessed with the incredible families who are represented here today that ever provided unwavering support during 12 years of war. I will tell them about the tremendous Fort Campbell community that’s always here when we deploy, who are here during the remembrance ceremonies, and when we come back home! You always there and we really appreciated you.
I will tell them about our civilian workers who weathered furloughs and Government shutdowns while we deployed, yet they never stop supporting our soldiers are families and we quite frankly could not do what we do without each and every one of you.
And finally, I will tell them as the song goes I’m proud to be an American and proud to serve my country and I’m proud to be a scream Eagle, thanks again for a great welcome home! Air Assault
Lee Greenwood then sang his signature song God bless the USA welcoming the troops home once again.
The ceremony closes 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.
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 Maj. Gen. McConville took a moment to speak with the media.
I am very very proud of what our soldiers did over in Afghanistan! This was a very important time in the history of Afghanistan because during this last year, the Afghan security forces took the lead for the security in Regional Command East for the first time. During this time, they were fully responsible for the security, and during this fighting season the Afghan security forces believe that they defeated the enemy; and I tend to agree!
I think that the Army and the country will always need a highly trained discipline and fit air assault force and the 101st Airborne Division has very proud history, it’s been one of the forces called upon to do the toughest jobs; and I expected it to be that way in the future. And although maybe as the divisions concerned we may not know where the next rendezvous with destiny going to be; but I’m sure there’s going to be one.
The soldiers and families are of the ought to be really proud of what they did during this mission because there was a transition in Afghanistan. When we were there last time we did most of the fighting now the Afghans are securing their country; and really what they’ve done is give the Afghan people and the Afghan children an opportunity for a future a bright future and that’s what they should take away from it.