by Dustin Senger
While 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, handed over regional authority in Afghanistan to 2nd BCT, 4th Inf. Div., loved ones eagerly awaited the Soldiers’ flights home.
“It’s just so good to see him — it feels unreal,” said Tara Jones on Sunday, after reuniting with her husband, Sgt. Thomas Jones, 4th Battalion, 42nd Field Artillery Regiment, 1st BCT, 4th. Inf. Div. A blue shirt with a red heart covered 12-month-old Koby. “Son” was printed in white.
Koby was born the day his father signed out for a month of pre-deployment leave.
“Being over there, being in Afghanistan, every day you’re thinking about getting back and being with your Family again,” said Thomas Jones, who was greeted by four generations of Family members wearing customized T-shirts that noted their relationship. “Every day you’re one day closer to being home.”
About 3,800 1st BCT Soldiers redeployed during the past two months, said Maj. Earl Brown, 1st BCT public affairs officer. Fourteen died during the deployment; 12 were combat-related.
Last summer, a transfer of authority ceremony at Kandahar Airfield positioned the Soldiers at the heart of Regional Command South. Upon their arrival, the Arghandab district was tallying 50-75 attacks per week — the 1st BCT “Raiders” reduced those numbers to less than five.
The Raiders overpowered Taliban safe havens, locations used to spread fear in Kandahar, said Brown. At first, many area residents refused to leave their homes, but steadily started trusting their security forces. They ended up reporting most of the discovered weapons caches and explosive devices.
The Soldiers destroyed more than 800 improvised explosive devices and performed more than 52,000 patrols. They covered 75 forward operating bases, combat outposts, police substations and access control points with their Afghan partners.
The brigade completed more than 300 projects, including 19 schools and five clinics. The Soldiers rebuilt villages, repaired roads and provided security for the emplacement of two power plants.
When they left, commercial trucks filled the roads of Kandahar City and the Arghandab district, where shopkeepers started to remain open into the late evenings. The Raiders “transformed Kandahar,” said Col. John S. Kolasheski, 2nd BCT commander, during the transition of authority ceremony June 19.
When the buses arrived Sunday at Fort Carson, carrying the final flight of 228 redeploying Soldiers, Sgt. Jason Paul, 4th Bn., 42nd FA Reg., 1st BCT, rushed to begin their formation.
“I ran up to get in front, to get in the door faster, and see my Family faster,” said Paul.
“I couldn’t even sleep on the plane; I was so excited.” When the doors swung open, he was one of the first to march inside.
“It was awesome waiting for the doors to open,” said Paul, who walked into a standing ovation surrounded by layers of colorful banners welcoming the war fighters. “It was overwhelming. It makes you feel really proud.”
His wife, Audrey Paul, was inside comforting their crying 13-month-old son, Conner, and thinking “oh my God, it’s over,” she said.