FORT KNOX, Ky. - Family members anxiously filled the Natcher Physical Fitness Center to welcome home Soldiers of the 3d Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) during a redeployment and uncasing ceremony Dec. 6.

The uncasing of the unit colors marked the return of the 3d ESC Soldiers from Afghanistan and the start of operations at Fort Knox.

The sustainers, who were deployed in April of 2014 to Afghanistan, were tasked with providing single sustainment mission command in Afghanistan. This included logistical support for such items as fuel, water and rations, and enabled service members across Afghanistan to continue their train, advise and assist mission without interruption.

Additionally, the 3d ESC was tasked with the essential, yet complex task of redistribution, disposal, and retrograde of excess materiel across Afghanistan, as well as base closures through the CENTCOM Materiel Recovery Element.

Maj. Gen. Jefforey Smith, deputy commanding general of XVIII Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg, was the guest speaker at the ceremony and welcomed the Sustainers back to Fort Knox.

"Congratulations for a job well done," said Smith. "Your nation's proud of you, we're proud of you here at Fort Knox, and of course XVIII Airborne Corps is proud of you; welcome home."

Brig. Gen. Donnie Walker Jr., commanding general of the 3rd ESC, and Clay County, Alabama, native, said he was proud of the sustainers, and thanked everyone for their attendance and patriotism.

"I want to thank all of you for coming out to welcome home these heroes," said Walker. "I wish you could bottle up the emotion, the pride and the patriotism that these Soldiers have felt not only tonight but the last few days with our stops through Portsmouth, New Hamshire and in Iceland; just a tremendous outpouring of patriotism (and) they deserve every bit of it. I want to thank you all for giving them that here tonight."

During his speech Walker spoke on the impact of the 3d ESC Soldiers and the changing atmosphere in Afghanistan.

"Those of you that have been to Afghanistan the past 13 plus years, you would simply not know it as it stands today," said Walker. "A tremendous amount of work has went in to change the whole dynamic of Afghanistan and turn it into a train, advise and assist platform; the men and woman that you see standing out here today had a lot to do with that."

"61 bases were reduced, thousands of pieces of equipment retrograded; the largest retrograde in the shortest span of time in our Nation's history," said Walker. "The enemy had a vote every single day (but) these guys got it done each and every day."

Walker closed his speech saying he appreciated the support from the Family members, Fort Knox, and the surrounding community.

"I just want to thank the Fort Knox community, our rear detachment and the local community for their great support," said Walker. "Finally I want to thank the families; you too are true heroes and should be standing up here right alongside your spouses. We could not do what we accomplished the last eight months without your love and support, courage, resiliency and your tremendous sacrifice that goes into being an Army spouse or significant other."

After the ceremony the Soldiers and family members ran to their loved ones, anxious to hug, hold and embrace one another.

Sara Reinstatler, wife of Capt. Billy Reinstatler, was excited to see her husband and said during the deployment she was able to keep in touch almost daily.

"We Skyped more than anything and talked almost every day," said Sara. "The kids got to see daddy and hear daddy on Skype."

Sara said being able to talk to Billy over Skype helped time to pass while he was deployed and allowed him to see his children grow.

"Our daughter Theresa didn't start walking until after he left, and he was able to watch her run around the house," said Sara. "A lot of Family Readiness Group events and get togethers also helped us stay connected."

Jessica Edmiston was also excited to spend time with her husband and high school sweetheart, 1st Lt. Brandon Edmiston.

"We talked almost every day," said Jessica. "But I missed being around him, he's like my best friend."

During the deployment the 3d ESC managed the closing or transfer of 61 bases, retrograded nearly 5,500 vehicles and more than 105,000 pieces of other equipment, all while sustaining US and coalition forces across Afghanistan's six regional commands.