It's been a very tough year for the men and women of Fort Drum's 3rd Brigade Combat team who've been deployed to one of the most dangerous regions in Afghanistan for the past year. But the deployment is almost over and as our Brian Dwyer reports, 100 soldiers of the 3rd are now safely home and getting ready for the rest to touch down as well.
FORT DRUM, N.Y. -- Highway 1 just outside Kandahar City is a long cry from the friendly confines of Fort Drum. One of the most dangerous areas of Afghanistan was the home of Drum's 3rd Brigade Combat Team for the last year.
"It was tough," Sgt. Will Kowalsky said. "There was a lot of work that had to get done and we did great making it happen. That's what we do. That's what the Spartans do."
Over the last year, the brigade not only helped continue to train Afghan Security Forces, but took it further, working with local leaders on basic government needs and local people on how to become more independent. And the Spartans paid the price, with both injuries and deaths.
But Thursday night marked the beginning of the end. The first 100 3rd Brigade soldiers came back on Fort Drum and back to their families.
"We need that family support and that support of friends, organizations and the community," 3rd BCT Rear Detachment Commander Major Joseph Hoffman said. "Every little bit of that support truly helps us get through the tough times and make it back here."
"It's overwhelming," Sgt. Kowalsky said about being home. "It's extremely exciting and very fun. I'm just glad to see everyone again."
These soldiers are what's known as a torch party. They're back a month or so before everyone else to make sure everything is set for the rest of the brigade as it starts coming home.
"As the remaining flights come in, we just make sure we have everything set up for the reception and receive them and take care of them and make sure they go through all the necessary processes to go home to their families," Major Hoffman said.
There will be one more flight coming home in February, but the rest of the brigade will be home in March.