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Soldiers back home in time for the holidays

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Herald/CATRINA RAWSON

First Lt. Andrew Blair, 59th Mobility Augmentation Company, 8th Engineer Battalion, 36th Engineer Brigade, hugs his father ,Tom Blair, during a homecoming ceremony Monday at the Bronco Youth Center at Fort Hood.

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More than 375 soldiers have returned from Afghanistan since Sunday, just in time for Thanksgiving.

Both III Corps and the 1st Cavalry Division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team sent home troopers months earlier than expected.

Nearly 200 soldiers from III Corps and 3rd Cavalry Regiment returned to Fort Hood Sunday evening in a ceremony at West Fort Hood Physical Fitness Center.

Capt. Jason Dillon, III Corps Headquarters Support Company rear detachment commander, had positive remarks on the homecoming. The soldiers were returning from a seven-month deployment to Afghanistan, where they assisted local security forces.

“We had a few bumps in the road along the way,” he said, “but we made sure the families were taken care of. Communication was the utmost focus — we had a great battle rhythm.”

He described the mission as a success, with the soldiers returning about five months earlier than originally intended.

More homecomings

Also on Sunday, about 60 soldiers from 1st Cavalry Division’s 2nd “Black Jack” Brigade Combat Team arrived back at Fort Hood after spending only four of the scheduled nine months deployed to Afghanistan. About another 300 are expected in the coming weeks, as the brigade’s 2nd Brigade Special Troops Battalion and 15th Brigade Support Battalion finish up their work and return home.

“It’s based on the fluid nature of their mission and the progress they’ve made so far,” said Brig. Gen. Joseph Martin, the division’s deputy commander of maneuver, of the early return.

The brigade deployed about 3,200 in July to conduct a security force assistance mission throughout three regional commands. Their efforts support the withdrawal of U.S. personnel and equipment by the end of 2014.

“It may be the coldest night of the year, but it was a great night, because now troopers will be home for the holidays,” Martin said.

“We’re darn proud of them.”

Families waving banners and snapping photos packed the Bronco Youth Center on Monday to welcome home 119 soldiers from the 59th Mobility Augmentation Company, 8th Engineer Battalion, 36th Engineer Brigade.

The soldiers spent nine months in Afghanistan on a route clearance mission.

“They did an outstanding job,” said Lt. Col. Kenneth N. Reed, battalion commander. “It was a remarkable performance.”

7 images

Herald/CATRINA RAWSON

First Lt. Andrew Blair, 59th Mobility Augmentation Company, 8th Engineer Battalion, 36th Engineer Brigade, hugs his father ,Tom Blair, during a homecoming ceremony Monday at the Bronco Youth Center at Fort Hood.

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