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2nd BCT starts return
Second wave of Stewart redeployments arriving
Rachel and SFC Donald Hawkins, carrying their baby, are escorted into friend Sam Miness' limousine as he prepares to drive the family away from a ceremony that welcomed the sergeant and 240 of his fellow soldiers home from Iraq Thursday afternoon.
After more than 13 months served in Iraq, the U.S. Army's Third Infantry Division's Second Brigade Combat Team began returning home Thursday with about 240 soldiers.
The homecoming was special for all the soldiers and the estimated 400 well-wishers who came out to Cottrell Field, but maybe just a little more so for SFC Donald Hawkins, thanks to the arrangements made by his wife Rachel Hawkins.
The Hawkins family, husband and wife, three sons and a baby, headed home from the ceremony in the enormous stretch Explorer limousine owned by family friend Sam Miness.
"I thought this was a wonderful way for us to welcome my husband home," Hawkins said.
SFC Hawkins, a master gunner, said he had anticipated a surprise from his wife, "but with her you never know what to expect."
Hawkins wanted the homecoming to be extra special because she will busy in her teaching job when the sergeant retires from the Army in October.
"We're from Hinesville and we're retiring here, she said.
The brigade is coming home after a 13-month deployment to the Arab Jabour area of southeastern Baghdad where it detained more than 800 terrorist suspects and helped foster Iraqi self-government.  
When the brigade arrived in the area in May 2007, about 30 attacks a week occurred; attacks are now down to about one a week.  
Second brigade soldiers blocked weapons from entering the Iraqi capital, protected the local population, and trained Iraqi security forces.
The 2nd BCT is among four the division sent to Iraq last year and the third to return stateside this year, though the 3rd BCT returned to its Fort Benning Home. The 2nd's return is expected to stretch through July. The 4th BCT is now scheduled to remain in Iraq through the year and return early in 2009.

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