CAB begins return from Afghanistan
By Reginald Rogers
Nearly 150 82nd Airborne Division Combat Aviation Brigade Soldiers arrived to a sea of cheering Family members and friends at Pope Air Force Base’s Green Ramp Tuesday, marking the beginning of the unit’s return from its one-year deployment to Afghanistan.
Family members and well wishers stood outside the Green Ramp hangar, waving American flags and holding signs as the Soldiers’ aircraft arrived shortly before noon Tuesday. XVIII Airborne Corps Deputy Commanding General Maj. Gen. Daniel B. Allyn spoke to the redeploying Soldiers and Family members, welcoming them back to Fort Bragg.
Allyn first asked the crowd to give a round of applause to the arriving Soldiers, he then asked the redeploying Soldiers to give applause to “the real heroes,” who supported them throughout their 12-month mission — the Family members.
“Actually it’s great to have them back home,” said Maj. Chad Ward, the unit’s rear detachment commander, who redeployed early to ensure that the unit’s transition is a smooth one. “As you can see, all the Families are here and we’re glad to see our first initial force package to redeploy back on the ground here at Fort Bragg.”
Ward said the force package consisted mostly of Soldiers from the 3rd Battalion, 82nd CAB, the brigade’s general support aviation battalion. This is the unit that was primarily responsible for conducting crucial air assault operations in Afghanistan.
Many Family members arrived at the location early Tuesday morning and most agreed that the hour before the flight’s arrival was the most intense. Some even admitted that the anxiety was almost unbearable.
“I’m very excited,” said Brandi Armstrong, who was there with her three sons Blaze, 7, Tyce, 6, and 1-year-old Aiden, along with her husband’s parents. Armstrong is married to Spc. Keith Armstrong, Jr.
“He’s been gone for a year and I’m ready for it to be over. This is the worst part because I’ve been here since eight o’clock this morning.”
The boys said they already knew what their first words would be when they saw their father for the first time in a year — “I love you,” said Blaze and Tyce, in unison.
“I’m excited about him coming in as well, but this is old hat,” explained the Keith Armstrong, Sr., who traveled from Lancaster, S.C. to see his son’s arrival. “We were waiting on him when he came in from Iraq. We’re getting used to it by now.”
Roxie Venegas and her three children, Daniel, 9, Angelo, 7, and 3-year-old Alyssa, all, sat on pins and needles as they awaited the arrival of her husband, Spc. Manuel Venegas. She said she was overcome with joy, but the anticipation was very difficult.
“I’m very anxious, very emotional, very happy to have my Family back together,” she said.
Alyssa said her first words for daddy would be, “go to the house,” while the boys said they wanted to tell him that they loved him. “I love him, too,” Alyssa said. “I’m going to sing ‘Party U.S.A.’”
Miley Grimm sat on a bench, knees folded as she waited alone, patiently for her husband, Capt. Seth Grimm to arrive. She said she had been at Green Ramp for about two hours.
“I’m more excited than a six year old on Christmas morning,” said Grimm, who along with Seth is a Dresden, Ohio native. “Wow, I don’t know what I’ll say to him. I guess, hi and I’m so excited to see you and I barely got here because I get lost easily. I don’t know. It’s going to be kind of a whirlwind.”
Not everyone who waited for their loved one was a military wife, but for Kimberly Fanning, the devotion was unquestionable. Fanning held two balloons, one of which bore the words: Team Hurley, as she waited for the arrival of her boyfriend, Sgt. Coy E. Hurley.
“The anticipation level is off the charts,” Fanning said as she sat and chatted with other anxious Family members. “For me, this is not the worst part because I’m just so happy that he’s coming back. I think the weekend was the hardest, just getting ready. I just want to tell him, I love you, baby.”
For the Soldiers who redeployed as part of this unit’s first force package, their mission in Afghanistan was over for now and their minds were clearly on what awaited them at Pope Air Force Base’s Green Ramp.
“It feels great, I can’t even speak. I was ready to come home,” explained Spc. Manuel Venegas, amidst hugs from his children. “I missed them so much.”
Venegas said he already knew what he wanted to do on his first trip with his Family in over a year. “We’re going to eat,” he said.
It feels great being home,” said Hurley as he and Fanning embraced. “The things I miss most about being home are my girl, my son and Family. The first thing I’m going to do is take a shower.”
The nearly 150 Soldiers that arrived Tuesday marked the first members of the CAB to return to Fort Bragg.