Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash - Soldiers of the 5th Battalion, 3rd Field Artillery Regiment, 17th Field Artillery Brigade reunited with their family and friends after a nine-month deployment to Iraq, Jordan and other areas of U.S. Central Command region at Wilson Fitness Center on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., Dec. 24, 2017.
"Lt. Col. James R. Dunwoody and Command Sgt. Maj. John C. Black lead their team of 'First Round' soldiers for the last nine months supporting Jordanian and United Arab Emirate partners and also firing over 1500 rockets in support of our operations against ISIS in Iraq," said Col. Christopher W. Wendland, commander of 17th Field Artillery Brigade. "They did a superb job at answering our Nation's call."
5-3 FA didn't have just one mission while deployed to U.S. Central Command Area of Operation, they had several. They were spread throughout the region, located in five countries and 12 locations. Their two primary missions were Operation Spartan Shield and Operation Inherent Resolve.
Operation Spartan Shield is a combined forces contingency operation within Central Command's area of responsibility and plays a role both in deterring regional aggression and reacting to possible threats within the Middle East.
5-3 FA's part of it was to work on the interoperability of the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems between the U.S. Army, the Jordanian Army and United Arab Emirates' Army.
In support of Operation Inherent Resolve, 5-3 FA shot over 1500 rockets in the defense of U.S. and Allied Forces against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. Helping to leave ISIS in its current depleted state.
5-3 FA has had a long lineage of being on the front line. Known as 'First Round,' they were constituted 27 April 1798 in the Regular Army as a company in the 2nd Reg. of Artillerists and Engineers.
They have seen battle in almost every war that the U.S. has been involved in, War of 1812, Indian Wars, Mexican War, Civil War, Spanish-American War, Philippine Insurrection, WW I, WW II, plus supporting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
As to its unique motto, that was earned at the start of the Civil War when Battery D - the forerunner of the battalion - fired the first shot at the Battle of Bull Run.
Family is always a big deal when units return home, and this homecoming was no different.
Over and over again the family members exclaimed how excited they were to have their soldiers back for Christmas. Some of them were excited because of a new born baby, like Abigale Argulles.
"We just had our first son a month before Jordan left," said Argulles. "It has been hard doing it myself but I am super excited to have him back now."
Other families were just glad to have their soldier back, like Vallerie Conrad and her three kids.
"Dustin left six months after getting here," said Conrad. "So, it has been a long time and this is a good present for us. The best Christmas present ever."
The soldiers were just as excited at being home as the family members.
"It was a long deployment," said Staff Sgt. Mark Mignone, "and it is great to be home for Christmas."
"It is great to be back," said Sgt. Jerry Friend. "I have my family here and it is going to be a great Christmas!"
With the colors back on JBLM and the soldiers' safe at home for Christmas, Wendland said it best "We are proud of these phenomenal soldiers. There are 265 of them standing before you and we are excited as you are that they made it home for the holidays."