Grateful for a slight cool breeze in the early summer air, friends and loved ones gathered on Fort Stewart’s Cottrell Field on Tuesday to welcome home 227 soldiers with the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. The 4th brigade is the 3rd Infantry Division’s last remaining brigade in Iraq. The Vanguard brigade deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn last July.
3rd ID Commander Maj. Gen. Robert Abrams congratulated troops for a job well done shortly before families were given the signal to “rush the formation.”
Abrams made a visit to Iraq two weeks ago to inspect operations there. He and about 700 Division Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion troops will deploy to Iraq late this fall. No other 3rd ID brigades are slated to return to Iraq, Abrams previously has said. The general said troops should remain in a reset and training mode for the next year or two. U.S. troops are due to leave Iraq by Dec. 31.
Staff Sgt. Steve Shepard with the 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team waited with growing anticipation for his wife, Staff Sgt. Tarnisha Shepard, to appear on Cottrell Field. The Army couple has three children, Rion, 13, Samuel, 5, and Makalah, 3.
“I can’t wait for her to get home,” Shepard said. Shepard and his wife had overlapping deployments; his was from October 2009 to October 2010 and she from July 2010 to this June.
“We thought it best that we don’t deploy together,” Shepard said.
The Army dad said their children stayed with grandparents in Texas during those intervening months.
“The kids didn’t lose a step,” he said. “They knew the routine and what to expect.”
Betty Sanders and her husband, Jack Osteen, a retired Army major general, waited patiently for their grandson, Lt. Christopher Wade Sanders, to march onto Cottrell Field. Osteen served in the Korean and Vietnam wars.
“I’m very proud of him and thankful for his service,” Osteen said.
The self-proclaimed “4-3 BSTB (Brigade Special Troops Battalion) Combat Barbies,” Melissa Stevens, Michele Lewis and Krystal Johnson, showed support for their deployed husbands’ brigade by greeting returning troops. Lewis said they plan to attend every 4th brigade homecoming ceremony held until their husbands return.
Once 4th Brigade soldiers redeploy and finish taking block leave, the brigade will complete its move into a new $427 million complex off Highway 144 in July, Fort Stewart Garrison Commander Col. Kevin Milton told community members during a Liberty County Chamber of Commerce luncheon held last month.