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Homecomings now at 3,000
3rd ID's 1st BCT redeploying
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Threatening storm clouds chased today's second homecoming ceremony indoors here, but the spirits of friends and families gathered to welcome home 1st Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division soldiers were still sunny.

About 700 friends and family crowded into the bleachers at Fort Stewart's Newman Fitness Center to greet roughly 280 soldiers.

Col. Todd Buchs, Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield garrison commander, raised the 1st BCT Soldiers for a job well done and their service in Iraq.

"Raiders, you were the first Soldiers of the division to deploy in support f Operation Iraqi Freedom Five," Buchs said.  "You were the first to put oots on the ground for 15 months.  You truly have every right to be proud of what you have done for the people of Iraq and the United States."

Buchs also thanked the families for their support of their 1st BCT soldiers.

"Because of them, you were able to exceed all expectations," he said.

Col John Charlton, the 1st BCT commander, returned home Tuesday.  When the rigade first deployed to Al Anbar, there were 30 to 35 attacks per day, he said.  Now, the province is a more peaceful model for all of Iraq to follow.

"It was tremendously violent," Charlton said.  "The city was totally destroyed.  If you moved, you became a target.  Now, you can walk around freely in Ramadi."

Following Buchs' welcome and singing the national anthem, the Marne Song and the Army Song, the family members and friends rushed from the bleachers to greet their Soldiers.

To date, more than 3,000  1st BCT Soldiers have redeployed.
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