By Steve Hart, Hunter Army Airfield Public AffairsNovember 17, 2010
HUNTER ARMY AIRFIELD, Ga. - There was electricity in the air as hundreds of Family Members and friends gathered in Hangar 860 on Hunter Army Airfield the night of Nov. 15 awaiting the return of 200 Soldiers from the 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade from their year-long deployment to Afghanistan.
"We've been looking forward to this day for a year and 13 days," said Stacey Farris, referring to herself and her two step-daughters, Breanna, 4, and Katelynn, 3. "The separation has been very challenging but we managed ... however, the past 24 hours have been crazy. The kids woke up at 4:30 a.m. today anxious to see their Dad [Spc. Corey Farris, an Apache helicopter crew chief with the 1st Battalion, 3rd Aviation Regiment]."
When the alarm sounded signifying the hangar's monstrous doors were about to open, the packed crowd erupted with excitement. The jubilation intensified as the formation of Soldiers marched proudly into the center of the hangar.
When the voice of the ceremony announcer thundered over the loud speakers informing the crowd that Col. Don Galli, commander, 3rd CAB, and Command Sgt. Maj. Rick Stidley, 3rd CAB command sergeant major, would ceremonially uncase the brigade's colors, the crowd roared with approval.
The 3rd CAB, known as Marne Air, deployed to Afghanistan in November 2009 as the Army's surge force in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. While deployed, the brigade became Task Force Falcon, a fighting force with 5,200 Soldiers and 250 aircraft that partnered with aviation units from Afghanistan, Poland, the Czech Republic, Korea and France to conduct the full spectrum of aviation operations in Regional Command - East.
Task Force Falcon flew more than 160,000 flight hours and moved thousands of tons of supplies and equipment over Afghanistan's rugged and hostile terrain.
"We were in the fight every day," Col. Galli said. "Everything over there is predicated on aviation and our guys performed incredibly well. I am extremely proud of the men and women of this unit."
Soldiers of 3rd CAB began returning to Hunter in November.
"I cried every time their flight was delayed," said Linda Naovarangey, a spouse, who waited with her five-year-old son, Donny, and her three-year-old daughter, Alana, to celebrate the homecoming of husband, Sgt. Donny Naovarangey, 603rd Aviation Support Battalion, Nov. 4.
Cecilia Talavera was also eager to greet her husband, Sgt. Mario Talavera, 4th Battalion, 3rd Aviation Regiment. When they spoke earlier in the day, prior to his redeployment, Nov. 4., he was anxious for their reunion and to see his nine-month-old daughter, Amaya, who was born while he was deployed. His niece, 11-year-old Vanessa Soto, was also eager to give him a welcome home hug.
"This was a tough deployment," said Cecilia. "Especially just having the baby. I 'm just so grateful that he's returning home safely."
The Marne Air's colors will soon add the streamer as the first 3rd ID brigade to have served in Afghanistan.