Family, friends and loved-ones wait to greet soldiers Friday during the 1st Cavalry Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team homecoming event at Fort Hood's Cooper Field.

Eric J. Shelton | Herald

More than 250 1st Brigade Combat Team “Ironhorse” soldiers came home on Friday from their nine-month rotation to South Korea, where they were welcomed home with open arms by family and friends on 1st Cavalry Division’s Cooper Field.

As of Friday, roughly half of the more than 4,100 soldiers who deployed with the brigade are back on Fort Hood. While the unit replacing Ironhorse has already begun the process of taking over, the Office of the Secretary of Defense has yet to release the name of the unit.

The soldiers were deployed to camps Hovey, Casey, Humphreys and Stanley, South Korea, as part of a regular Army rotation to help defend South Korea from a possible attack by North Korea.

Families and frinds began to cheer as they caught glimpses of their loved ones getting into a formation behind the buses that brought them from the airfield. Chanting “move that bus” at the top of their lungs — with the helpful barking of a lot of four-legged fur babies — the buses finally moved out of the way and the Ironhorse troopers marched onto the field.

After rendering honors to the flag by playing the national anthem, the soldiers and families were given the word to “Charge!”

For Chelsea Gray, the rotation was nine months too long to get her husband, 1st Lt. Shawn Gray, home and back to “daddy duties.”

“I am pretty excited. I have two toddlers, a 3-year-old girl and a 14-month-old boy, so I’m very excited,” she said.

The most difficult part was coming home from work and trying to balance making dinner for the kids, keeping an eye on them and getting them their baths and ready for bed, she said. With a daughter who is a “daddy’s girl” who didn’t want to go to bed until Daddy read to her, trying to juggle everything could be overwhelming.

Shawn Gray said he was more than ready to take back over those duties, however.

“It’s absolutely amazing to be home. The worst thing was being away from my wife and kids, watching them grow over the phone and Skype,” he said. “I’m looking forward to daddy duty, though — diapers and all.”

The single soldiers coming home were just as happy — even if they were still going back to the barracks.

“I think what I’m looking forward to the most is just being able to read street signs in English,” said Pvt. Brandon Swartz, a mortarman from B Troop, 1st Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment. “That and knowing exactly what it is I’m ordering off of a restaurant menu!”

dbryant@kdhnews.com | 254-501-7554

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