By VINCE LITTLEJuly 18, 2012
FORT BENNING, Ga. (July 18,2012) -- More than 50 Soldiers from the 233rd Transportation Company are back at Fort Benning after a yearlong deployment to Southwest Asia.
Family and friends packed Freedom Hall on Sunday morning as 4th Platoon landed at Lawson Army Airfield. The Soldiers spent last year in Kuwait, conducting convoys into and out of Iraq for Operation New Dawn and the exodus of U.S. forces and equipment. Then, the unit was dispatched to Afghanistan in the past six months.
The platoon is attached to Fort Benning's 203rd Forward Support Battalion, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team. The company has two platoons at Fort Knox, Ky., and another based on Fort Stewart, Ga.
"These awesome Soldiers from 4th Platoon accomplished many tasks," said Lt. Col. Sean Barnes, the 3rd ABCT's deputy commander. "They traveled about 230,000 miles in all. … This platoon played a huge role in the responsible drawdown from Iraq, and it did a great job in support of Operation Enduring Freedom from Kuwait and Afghanistan."
The 233rd Transportation Company, one of only three heavy equipment transport companies in the Army, conducted stability and support operations during the deployment. It transported heavy equipment, vehicles, shipping containers and supplies.
"This is a wonderful feeling," Sgt. Javonne Thomas said while embracing his wife, Erika. "It's been a long journey, but we're glad to be back. The mission is done -- I'm happy to be back with my Family.
"We're just going to take it slow. Take it real, real slow and just enjoy each other's company."
Thomas was returning from his fourth deployment. Erika said the separations never get easier.
"It was hard," she said. "My Family was there for me. That made it easier. … He looks smaller."
Spc. Nicholas Grunigen, home after a second deployment with the 233rd, held his daughter, Aurora, 3, with wife Sarah and their year-old daughter Cailan also making up the homecoming committee in arm's reach.
"It's pretty awesome," he said. "It was a long deployment, but we held it together. It's good to be back here, though. … It was pretty stressful going into Iraq and back the first six months.
"I'm looking forward to spending time with my Family now. We don't have any big plans, just making up for lost time."
This marked the 233rd Transportation Company's sixth deployment since 2003.