Last of 3rd Brigade soldiers home
Fort Benning welcomes back last 67 soldiers from Iraq deployment
BY MICK WALSH
They're all home... finally.
The last group of 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team soldiers, who had stayed behind in Kuwait to ensure the safe return of all the brigade's equipment, arrived at Fort Benning's Lawson Army Airfield Monday afternoon, signaling the end of the unit's third deployment to Iraq since 2003.
No Army brigade has spent more time in Iraq than the 3rd's 41 months.
The homecoming for the 67 soldiers lacked the pizzazz, but certainly not the emotion, of previous arrivals.
When the chartered aircraft carrying the troops arrived about 30 minutes earlier than expected, just a handful of family members and friends waited for them in Freedom Hall, the airport's spacious terminal.
"We can't wait to see him," said William Morgan of Indianola, Wash., who with his wife, Cynthia, awaited the arrival of their son, Capt. Bryan Morgan.
Indianola, a town on Kipsak Peninsula in Puget Sound, west of Seattle, is more than 2,200 miles from Fort Benning.
"It did take us a while to get here," said a laughing Morgan, a Vietnam vet and a retired Department of Defense electrical engineer. "We were pulling a trailer."
So when did the couple start their trip?
"On May 1," they both laughed.
"I told you it took us a while. But we weren't going to miss this," William Morgan added.
Actually, with the brigade leadership team -- commander Col. Wayne Grigsby, deputy commander Lt. Col. Ryan Kuhn and battalion commanders Lt. Col. Jack Marr and Lt. Col. Troy Perry -- on hand, the in-processing procedure was expedited.
The plane landed at 3:50 p.m. and soldiers were reunited with families at 4:35 p.m. Normally, that process takes a full two hours.
"We were in Kuwait about a week," said Capt. Morgan after the reunification with his dad and mom. "That wasn't bad. Except for the fact we were also the first to go over (in March 2007)."
Morgan's parents have been getting their son's house cleaned up and have made sure his truck's in running order.
"And we have a huge root beer float waiting for him," his mother said. "That's the one thing he said he wanted."
They were going to have their first meal together since last fall. "We're headed to Buffalo Wild Wings," said the captain, a member of the 2nd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment, who spent the last several months attached to the 2nd Brigade of the 2nd Infantry Division.
The latest, and last, group to arrive will be granted a 48-hour pass before starting 10 half-days of reintegration training. Then they'll be off on a block leave of 30 days.