Nine-month deployment ends Thursday for 3rd Brigade

A nine-month deployment for the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division ends Thursday afternoon with the last 200 soldiers returning to Fort Benning.

When the flight touches down at Lawson Army Airfield, about 2,000 soldiers who deployed to the Middle East for training at Camp Buehring will be back home at Kelley Hill. The first flight started returning soldiers to the post on Feb. 1.

The soldiers return three days after Col. Johnnie L. Johnson Jr., commander of the “Sledgehammer” brigade, cased the brigade colors Monday during a ceremony, officially ending the brigade’s mission in Kuwait. Johnson will take part in a brief ceremony at Freedom Hall to uncase the brigade’s colors before soldiers are reunited with their families.

Duties of the 3rd Brigade have been turned over to the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division. The 3rd Brigade was the first unit to deploy as part of the Central Command’s initiative to partner with the Kuwaiti land forces to promote peace and stability in the region. The brigade took part in a series of joint exercises and exchanges.

The first group of soldiers was deployed to Kuwait in June 2012. While deployed, many of the soldiers had to follow the birth of a child and other important events from afar while deployed to the Middle East.

At least 22 soldiers in the brigade became fathers while deployed. Most stayed in touch through email, Skype and iPhone calls during the deployment.

Soldiers who have already made the trip back home said they missed the food and going to restaurants in the Chattahoochee Valley. On many days in Kuwait, the gusting winds on the desert made it difficult for soldiers eating in the field.

“The most I missed was the family and not eating sand for breakfast, lunch and dinner,” a soldier said on one of the earlier flights. “It was quite windy a lot of days.”