Late Saturday evening, 147 soldiers from 5th Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team were reunited with their families.
The soldiers were the first to return home from 1st Brigade’s rotation to Europe, where they trained and worked with several NATO allies and partners for six months.
On that humid night their families lined up, looking for soldiers in the distance while holding up signs that read “Daddy” and “Welcome Home.”
Then out from the darkness, the returning soldiers began to walk towards them, quietly looking for their families who were cheering from the crowd. And when they finally stood before their loved ones, they were met with long, tight hugs that greeted them home.
“It’s pretty exciting. I’m happy to be back. It was a long six months, so it’s good to be home,” said Spc. Bradley Shove, a Bradley fighting vehicle gunner.
Randi Eaton, wife of Master Sgt. Shawn Eaton, was glad to have him home with their family.
“It’s been a rough deployment. We have four children, so active teenagers, so that makes it a little rougher. But we’re tough,” she said.
This six month rotation should be there last, according to 5-7 CAV’s operations officer Maj. John Denney.
“So we’re back here, the ADVON’s (Advanced Echelon) here on the ground now. We’re getting prepped for basically a build up for our next NTC (National Training Center) rotation. That’s the big next milestone for us,” he said.
While in Europe, the unit trained in several countries including Germany, Poland, and Hungary.
“I think we learned a lot just working with as many different partners as we got an opportunity to this time. Whether they were the Polish, the Lithuanians, Croatians, and of course the Hungarian Defense Forces that we spent the last couple of months with,” Denney said.
“Just sharing the ways that we do things different and then learning how we fight through some of the friction of working together,” he said. “That’s stuff that you just can’t learn in a book. You just have to get on the ground and do it.”
The 1st Brigade’s mission for the last 18 months as the regionally allocated force to U.S. Army Europe has allowed soldiers like 1st Lt. Maxemilio Jimenez to grow in their leadership roles and knowledge.
“There are so many more experiences that I have left with my time in the Army, but I feel like going on these rotations and spending time in Europe has opened my eyes to a lot of ways that the world is different than just what you learn in the classroom or you learn at school in officer candidacy,” Jimenez said. “You get the opportunities to work with other people, to do the things that you’ve trained to do, but also learn a little bit more about your soldiers and what they’re capable of.”
But nothing beats coming home to America and finally being back with the family.
“Spending some time with the family,” said Denney. “Of course, I think that’s what everybody wants. And then some of the comfort stuff that we get used to back in America. It’s nice to go and try different things, but we’ve definitely got the best stuff here.”
“Oh I’m sure there’s a nice little honey do list for me at the house,” said Master Sgt. Eaton, making his wife Randi smile. “I’m pretty sure of it.”