Shouts and screams of joy rang out in Freedom Hall Wednesday night as 249 soldiers with the 14th Combat Support Hospital returned to Fort Benning from a nine-month deployment to Afghanistan.
"It feels awesome," said Sgt. 1st Class Carla Lowe, a combat medic who was greeted by former members of her unit with a birthday cake. "It feels absolutely wonderful."
Lowe was among the 143 soldiers from the Combat Support Hospital and more than 100 from other units who arrived at Lawson Army Airfield about 7:30 p.m.
The men and women in the highly mobile unit are trained and equipped to treat wounds from bullets and improvised-explosive devices and other combat injuries. Under the command of Col. William S. Drennon, the unit served as a multi-functional medical task force with 600 soldiers making up teams on 57 forward operating bases across Afghanistan. Teams supported U.S. soldiers and coalition forces in more than 3,000 missions outside the forward operating bases.
Soldiers with the 14th Combat Support Hospital made up three surgical teams working in surgical hospitals with Spanish and British forces. They provided a wide range of treatment in Afghanistan.
During the deployment, soldiers performed more than 1,500 surgeries, executed more than 1,500 medical evacuation missions, completed 52,000 lab test, filled 12,000 prescriptions and took more than 21,000 X-rays.
Col. Jeff Johnson of the 44th Medical Brigade said it's great to get the soldiers home.
"They left back in September with
249 and came back with 249," Johnson said. "To me, that is what mission success looks like."
Johnson said the Army had figured it out that the war fighters need the medic right behind them.
They are confident the medics know what to do when something goes wrong.
"I am really proud of the 14th today as they come home and being incredibly successful," he said.
While treating injuries in Afghanistan, the unit had a 98 percent success rate in treatments.
"If a soldier came in and was still alive at CASH, you had a 98 percent chance to leave the theater alive," Johnson said.
Drennon said it's awesome to be back home.
"Everybody did a great job," he said.
"It was an awesome performance. They knew what to do. It was a matter of getting out there and doing it."
The most difficult part of the deployment was traveling in the country. "It's hard to get around in Afghanistan."
Spc. Stephen Price, a nurse, said he missed his wife, Sheri, and two newborn twins, Harper and Kennedy.
"It's great," he said. "I got to see all my kids.
He said he missed the little things with his family.
"Waking up to see my kids every day, I wasn't there for the little moments when they started walking, not being able to help out my wife when she needed it most."