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4th IBCT continues return home

More than 500 Vanguard troops redeploy from Iraq

POSTED: June 22, 2011 10:13 a.m.
Denise Etheridge/

Amanda Oakes, left, smiles at 4-month-old daughter Kianna after reuniting with her husband, Spc. Jeremy Oakes, on Monday on Fort Stewart’s Cottrell Field.

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More than 500 Vanguard soldiers returned home this week to loved ones waving flags, holding welcome signs and promising endless hugs on Fort Stewart’s Cottrell Field.

Ninety-two troops hopped off three white buses around noon Monday, braving South Georgia’s high heat and haze. This group was followed just after midnight Tuesday by 18 busloads of 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team soldiers. And Thursday evening, another main body of 4th IBCT troops is expected to return with the unit’s colors, according to Fort Stewart spokesman Kevin Larson.

“I just want to say thanks and congratulations for a job well done,” 3rd Infantry Division Commander Maj. Gen. Robert Abrams said after saluting returning troops Monday. “You have so much to be proud of. Welcome home.”

The 4th Brigade deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in July 2010. The brigade witnessed the U.S. military mission transition to Operation New Dawn last September. Vanguard soldiers were tasked with “strengthening the Iraqi security forces and building an enduring strategic partnership,” according to 4th Brigade Commander Col. Lou Lartigue, who was quoted in the latest issue of Vanguard Voice. Lartigue is scheduled to return with troops Thursday.

Alicia Oncale and her daughters, Heather, 8, and Lacey, 1, dressed in red, white and blue sundresses, waited excitedly for husband and father 1st Sgt. Heath Oncale to arrive.

Alicia Oncale said “just missing him” was the hardest part of coping with her husband’s yearlong deployment.

“We’re just glad to have him home,” she said. Oncale’s husband has served four deployments, including Desert Storm in the first Gulf War.

Vietnam veteran Sherm Uphold held 5-month-old grandson Jaxson on his lap as his 4-year-old granddaughter, Kara, sat beside him during the slow and sweat-filled minutes before his son, Spc. Jeremy Uphold, was welcomed home.

The elder Uphold traveled to Fort Stewart from his home in Auburn, Ala. A retired first sergeant, Uphold is proud of his son’s service.

“It means (Jeremy) is dedicated to his country, to his family, to a better way of life,” he said.

 Sgt. Nicholas Salentine’s mother-in-law, Yvonne Wyatt, and niece, Sarah Carr, were among the happy crowd that greeted Salentine on Monday.

“This was his second tour,” Wyatt said. She explained that her son-in-law’s parents live in Wisconsin and couldn’t travel to Fort Stewart to welcome him home on Cottrell Field, but they would be waiting for his return with signs and balloons at their home in the upper Midwest. Wyatt lives in Newnan.

“We wanted to give him a big welcome. He deserves it,” she said.

Once all Vanguard troops return stateside and complete block leave, the brigade will finish moving into its new complex off Highway 144, Fort Stewart Garrison Commander Col. Kevin Milton told community leaders in May.

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