1st CAB completes return to Fort Riley: Soldiers served 9 months in southern Afghanistan
May 21, 2014
The five pairs of boots marching into the hangar to waiting loved ones May 9 symbolized more than just the Soldiers' return. Those five men -- all Soldiers assigned to the 1st Infantry Division's 1st Combat Aviation Brigade -- were the final five from the brigade to depart Afghanistan.
The final five were the last vestiges of the brigade's deployment to Afghanistan, Col. Matthew Lewis, the brigade's commander, told the group before they were reunited with their families and friends that night.
"You are the final sentence of the final paragraph of the final chapter of the CAB's deployment," he said. "You all did a great job."
Men and women of the "Demon" brigade began their nine-month deployment to southern Afghanistan last summer. In February, Lewis got word he'd have to send 300 to 400 home as the U.S. military began its force drawdown in Afghanistan. In all, about 2,000 from the CAB came and went from the country during the course of nine months.
In that time, the Soldiers continued their mission of providing life-saving operations in the form of air transportation, medical support and evacuations and gunships to reinforce the fighters on the ground. Those task forces spanned the Kandahar, Zabul and Urozgan provinces, Lewis said, and included work with Italian, Spanish and Afghan troops.
The final five's return was the final chapter of the Demon brigade's service in Afghanistan, Lewis said.
"We can now close this chapter and then prepare for our next mission, whichever that might be," he said.
In separate discussions with waiting loved ones and returning Soldiers, Lewis urged all to focus on three actions: rest, recover and integrate. The first 96 hours after a Soldier's return are critical, he said. It's all about rest and physical training, which helps the body recover.
"And the other aspect I've talked to them about is taking things in moderation," Lewis said of his order to the Soldiers. "I told them don't binge eat, don't binge drink, don't binge drive."
There are certain restrictions on how far from their home stations Soldiers are permitted to travel because "we just want them to rest, to get back on the normal sleep schedule and just to be patient," Lewis said.
The brigade has hosted more than 15 redeployment ceremonies since mid-April to welcome home Soldiers. The ceremonies are great and euphoric, Lewis said, and one can't describe in words the feeling one has as he walks through the doors to waiting loved ones. But, relatively quickly, life and normal troubles at home surface. Families have changed, the Soldiers have changed and the key is to take things in moderation with patience and love, Lewis said.