Two hundred eighty soldiers of the 3rd Infantry Division’s 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team returned home early Thursday morning after a six-month deployment to Europe.
They marched through the doors of Newman Gym shortly after midnight to the cheers and tears of family and friends.
Division commanding general Maj. Gen. Charles Costanza promised to keep it brief and to everyone’s surprise he did when he walked up to the microphone and told family members to go get their soldiers.
Family members rushed from the bleachers seeking their loved ones and when finding them lavished them with hugs and kisses.
The colors of the 1st ABCT also returned to Fort Stewart, and the Raiders spent the last six months at Grafenwohr Training Area in Germany, working with NATO allies.
“Our mission was to deter further Russian aggression in the European region and to assure our allies,” said brigade commander Col. Peter Moon. “I’m extremely proud of everything our soldiers accomplished in rapidly deploying within in a span of week of a no-notice deployment.”
Raider Brigade soldiers, drawing upon pre-positioned equipment and vehicles, participated in Exercise Combined Resolve XVII at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center with 11 other NATO allies and partners. Other training and exercises completed throughout the deployment included M1 Abrams tank, Bradley Fighting Vehicle, and Paladin howitzer gunnery qualification tables and small unit, joint, and combined live fire exercises.
“The thing we communicated to our formation was that the soldiers in the unit demonstrated we have the ability to go anywhere in the world anytime, as fast as our nation needs us,” Col. Moon said.
The 1st Brigade had been home for about seven months from a nine-month deployment to South Korea before it was sent to Europe.
“It’s certainly challenging,” Col. Moon said of the consecutive overseas missions. “But we have a great community and a great support infrastructure and a lot of very resilient families that were able to support the soldiers for this deployment.”
Soldiers from the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team will continue their return home over the next few weeks.
“Everybody knew that this was going to be a hard deployment, on everyone,” said Brianna Petro. “We were just trying to make this as easy on everyone.”
But even the eagles on his shoulders don’t absolve Col. Moon from a long-awaited “honey-do” list.
“His first task,” Petro said, “is showering. Then fixing the driveway.”
“(And) clean out the garage,” Col. Moon added.
The 1st ABCT is being replaced by the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division from Fort Hood, Texas.
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