Banners and flowers greeted a dozen soldiers from the 497th Movement Control Team at Fort Benning as they arrived from a nine-month deployment to Afghanistan.
“It’s a good feeling to be home especially to see my family and friends here,” Lt. Chad Hardy said after his parents greeted him with a huge banner at Freedom Hall. “It’s a little overwhelming but at the same time I’m glad that I had the support throughout the nine months.”
Hardy was among the first group of 18 soldiers to return to Fort Benning after processing 70,000 vehicles and equipment to leave Afghanistan. The rest of the soldiers arrived on a different flight later in the evening.
The soldiers are assigned to the 203rd Brigade Support Battalion which is part of the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division at Kelley Hill.
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Brent Coryell, commander of the Brigade Support Battalion, said the mission of the Movement Control Team was one of the biggest operations in military history processing trucks to leave the country. Soldiers helped close 14 bases in Afghanistan and conducted more than 6,000 missions.
“They were the first Movement Control Team to start processing things out,” Coryell said.
Soldiers faced some difficulty getting vehicles processed because of a language barrier.
“They are dealing with local national truck drivers,” Coryell said. “Imagine you are that soldier and the driver of the truck doesn’t speak English. You are trying to get him to move it this way or that way. You are trying to get the paperwork done right.”
Maureen and Clarence Hardy, parents of Chad Hardy, drove all the way from Lake Charles, La., to unfurl a banner with their son’s picture on it and the words, “Welcome Home Chad, Your Family Loves You.”
Maureen said both of Chad’s grandmothers died while he was deployed but he chose to stay with the soldiers in Afghanistan.
“He didn’t want to leave his men,” she said. “He was always present for his family. Family is everything to him. He had seen them both and spent time with both of them before going.”
The parents made some plans with their son before going on vacation. “We are going out to dinner,” Maureen said. “It is Easter weekend.”
Capt. Paul Janker, assigned to the 316th Cavalry Brigade at Fort Benning, had a bouquet of roses for his wife, Capt. Rori Chrisco-Janker, the commander of the team.
With separate deployments, Paul said he and his wife have been missing each other but they were excited about Friday’s homecoming. “She is my best friend,” he said. “It’s good to have her back.”
Chrisco-Janker said she’s happy to come home to such a warm welcome. She couldn’t wait to get home to play with her bulldog.
“There is a weary heart and being able to come back to friends and family and have such a big turnout and warm welcome,” she said. “It’s heart warming. It’s very deserving after nine months.”
Lt. Tyler Thornton said the homecoming was surreal.
“It still feels like I have got to wake up and go to work in the morning in Afghanistan,” he said. “Knowing that it is over and we are changing and moving on to bigger and better things, it’s a good feeling.”
Coryell said the returning soldiers will spend about two weeks getting reintegrated into the unit before taking some time off.