FORT STEWART, Ga. - Excitement filled the late night air as the last remaining Soldiers from the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, in Iraq, minus some Soldiers on “Trail Party” in Kuwait, were welcomed home at Fort Stewart’s Cottrell Field, June 23. Their return followed their year-long advise-and-assist mission in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn.

Before a crowd of enthusiastic Family Members and friends who gathered to welcome the Soldiers home, Col. Lou Lartigue, 4th IBCT commander and Command Sgt. Maj. Joseph Altman, brigade senior enlisted advisor, marched their Soldiers across Cottrell Field to a hero’s welcome.

With the crowd just a few short feet away, the Vanguard commander and command sergeant major, unfurled the brigade Colors, signifying the brigade’s return, and also marking the completion of the brigades third deployment to Iraq since its activation on May 26, 2004.

Third ID Commander, Maj. Gen. Robert "Abe" Abrams and Chief of Staff, Colonel Roger Cloutier, congratulated the redeploying Vanguard Soldiers on their success and welcomed the Soldiers home during the ceremony.

“We are so very proud of everything you have accomplished. Thank you for your sacrifice, thank you for defending freedom and for defending America. Welcome home,” said Col. Cloutier.
After the intentionally brief accolades, Family and friends rushed the field to greet their loved ones, where a short moment later, the Vanguard commander reflected on the efforts of returning his Soldiers home before the holiday.

"We really made an effort to transition all of the missions over there in a timely fashion with our counterparts that took over for us. It is great to get the Soldiers back for Independence Day to enjoy their leave with their Families around this time of year," Lartigue said.

Some Family Members said that although the wait has been grueling, they wouldn’t change a thing.

“It’s been crazy, time has gone slow. He has been gone 355 days,” said Heather Hansen, wife of Major Will Hansen, a civil affairs officer with HHC, 4th IBCT. “I feel extremely proud; I wouldn’t change our lives for anything.