About 30 soldiers assigned to the 3rd Infantry Division’s 2-3 Brigade Special Troops Battalion arrived home early from Afghanistan on Thursday.
Their nine-month combat deployment as part of a Security Force Assistance Team was curtailed by 30 days. Hundreds of family members, friends and fellow soldiers met them at Fort Stewart’s Newman Fitness Center, celebrating their early return with a welcome-home ceremony.
“They went over there to help train Afghan police,” said Catty Corson, wife of 2-3 BSTB commander, Lt. Col. Neal Corson. “They’re coming back a month early, and I don’t mind that at all.”
Corson and her daughter, Chloe, 16, waited anxiously on the front row of the bleachers with her friend, Olivia Gray with her children, Chase, 7, Noah, 5, and Kate, 11 months. The Grays were waiting for Maj. Charles Gray. Chase wore his blue and khaki Cub Scout uniform, which contrasted with the Army combat uniforms of the soldiers surrounding him. Chase, his brother and their little sister, who was seated in Chloe’s lap, waved tiny American flags as the 3rd ID band performed patriotic music.
Chase said matter-of-factly that he had been in the Cub Scouts for two years, proudly announcing his Scout status like an Army combat veteran.
By the time the troops arrived outside the fitness center, the bleachers were filled to capacity at one end of the gym. Someone with division’s protocol office moved across the gym floor shouting into a microphone and working the crowd into a frenzy.
The band joined in as the troops burst through the door and marched inside. The troops formed into a platoon-size unit centered on Corson, who snapped to attention as he reported to the 2nd Armor Brigade Combat Team’s deputy commander, Lt. Col. Thomas Cunningham.
Cunningham welcomed the troops back home, telling them he was keeping his comments short so they could reunite with their families. Following the national anthem and an invocation by the chaplain, everyone sang the Marne Song and Army Song. Then families were told they could welcome home their loved ones.
“This is our first deployment,” said Iris Quiles as she held up a large yellow poster that read, “We survived our first deployment.” “We’ve had (temporary duty) together before, but this was the first time we were separated by a deployment.”
Sfc. Jamey Quiles was glad to be home. The 12-year Army veteran could not stop smiling as he held Iris, whispering something in his native Puerto Rican Spanish.
“We were part of an SFAT team in charge of advising the Afghan Uniformed Police,” he said, responding to questions about his mission. “When we first got there, there was a riot — a green-on-blue incident with Afghan police against coalition forces. You could never let your guard down, but it calmed down a lot by the time we left.”
According to Fort Stewart Public Affairs Office, more than 9,000 3rd ID soldiers currently are deployed.