Just in time to celebrate Thanksgiving with loved ones, about 50 members of the 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team arrived home Monday after a 12-month deployment to Iraq.
The advance party marks the start of the 1st Brigade’s redeployment to Fort Stewart. The brigade’s 4,000-5,000 troops are expected to be back around Christmas. 1st Brigade is under the command and control of the 1st Armored Division while in Iraq.
The 2nd Brigade returned in October, and the 3rd Infantry Division commander, Maj. Gen. Tony Cucolo, along with about 35 Division Special Troops Battalion troops, was welcomed home Nov. 5. The 4th Brigade deployed to Iraq in July and will return to Fort Stewart next summer. 3rd ID troops are expected to have a year or two in dwell time before the next deployment cycle.
Family and friends waited for their thrice-delayed soldiers to appear on Cottrell Field under an oversized, harvest moon. Children, spouses, parents, siblings and friends toted signs and milled around the bleachers in the mild autumn air. After 1st Brigade troops marched onto the field, prayers were said, songs were sung and the soldiers’ loved ones rushed their formation.
Dede and Mark Ault of Hot Springs, Ark., looked on teary-eyed as their son, Spc. Jake Ault, held his infant daughter, Abby, for the second time ever. The baby girl seemed fascinated with her young father’s face, touching his chin and mouth.
“(Jake) hasn’t seen her since she was 10 days old,” said Dede Ault. “He came home (mid-deployment) for the birth.”
Ault said both her sons had served in Iraq. When asked what their son Jake would like to do now that he was home, Mark Ault replied, “Deer hunting!”
Jack Ault couldn’t take his eyes off his child, and said he was simply happy to be home to share his daughter’s first Thanksgiving.
Angela Cossich said her husband, Staff Sgt. Brent Cossich, hadn’t seen his younger daughter, eight-month old Ava, since she was two weeks old. The Cossichs’ older child, Caroline, is four.
“One of the hardest things to deal with (deployment) is explaining it to my four-year old,” Angela Cossich said. She added having a new baby and not having her husband home was difficult.
“It’s time you’ll never get back,” she said. Cossich commented the deployment was made easier for her by accepting the support of her Family Readiness Group. And, staying connected to her husband via the Internet helped ease the long separation, too, she said.
“We used Skype a lot,” Cossich said. “It helped Caroline understand that Daddy’s around even if he’s not at home.”