By By Kimberly Gearhart, USAG Schweinfurt Public AffairsNovember 6, 2007
SCHWEINFURT, Germany -- The first large group from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, to deploy to Iraq is now also the first to return: Task Force 1-26 has come home.
Families gathered Oct. 28 in the Finney Fitness Center here, awaiting the return of the final two waves - 222 people in all - of the main body of returning TF 1-26 Soldiers.
"My stomach's been turning all day," said Kate Olson, who was waiting for her husband, Sgt. Scott Olson
"You know when he came home from R&R' A year ago today," Kate added. With such a large group, many Soldiers took rest and recuperation leave, or R&R, early to ensure that everyone would get a chance. The additional three months extension meant that some families, such as the Olsons, may have spent a year or more apart.
Spouses and children waited excitedly for their loved ones to arrive, checking manifests repeatedly just to be sure their Soldier was really on the way home.
"My dad's coming in," said Victoria Richards, a 15-year-old family member with 299th Forward Support Battalion. Richards, like Olson, was feeling butterflies as the time drew near for her family's reunion.
Yvette Stewart, whose husband, Master Sgt. Maurice Stewart, is wrapping up his fourth deployment from Germany alone, noted that while the deployments never get any easier, the reunions do.
"You kinda get to where you know what to expect," she said. Master Sgt. Stewart and Master Sgt. Elmer Richards, Victoria's father, served together in Iraq during this deployment.
Soldiers returning to their families are released to go home with their Spouses. Single Soldiers are made welcome and comfortable by their rear detachments.
"We have one person for every three incoming single Soldiers," explained Sgt. 1st Class David Hanid, of 1st Battalion, 7th Field Artillery. Soldiers are escorted back to their new barracks rooms, which have been prepared for their arrival.
"They have snacks, soups, whatever the (Family Readiness Groups) have put together. Some churches and other entities from the States donated sheets and such, so they have everything they need right there, hopefully," he added.
If the single Soldiers have loved ones living on the economy, rear detachments and FRGs work together to ensure they are able to participate in the welcome home celebration as well.
Many people turned out to support the incoming Soldiers and their families, including Wounded Warriors looking for their friends to return, agency representatives from around the garrison, and FRG leaders.
"I'm here as a supporter," said 1st Battalion, 77th Armor Regiment FRG leader Tonia Johnson, whose husband has yet to return from his deployment with the Dagger Brigade.
Johnson, who has spent 20 years as an Army spouse, noted that changes to the homecomings, including the tighter schedules and manifest lists, help reduce the stresses Families feel when waiting for their loved ones to come home.
"It's become better, more planned. We really appreciate what the Army and the Brigade has done to make this easier on Families," she said.