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In the dark, early morning hours Saturday, almost 100 Soldiers from the 593rd Sustainment Brigade Headquarters and Headquarters Company returned home to Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
While deployed to Afghanistan the company was the first to support the U.S. Central Command Material Recovery Element, comprised of Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, Department of Defense civilians and contractors.
The brigade headquarters nine-month mission was to help with the drawdown of troops and the strategic recovery of excess materiel from around the Combined Joint Operations Area-Afghanistan, after more than a decade of war.
For Staff Sgt. Brittany Brinker, paralegal specialist, the deployment was her first.
I have nothing to compare it to, but I would say it was a neat experience to be a part of the base closure process and move equipment out of Afghanistan, Brinker said. Its a work in progress and we were the first ones who started it off right.
Among the few who stood on the flight line to shake the hands of Soldiers as they got off the plane were Lt. Gen. Robert B. Brown, commander, I Corps, Canadian Army BGen. Jean-Marc Lanthier, I Corps deputy commanding general of sustainment, and Mayor David Enslow from the city of Sumner, the brigades Community Connections partner.
The Soldiers turned in their weapons and traveled by bus from McChord Field to the Wilson Sports and Fitness Center on JBLM. The headquarters Soldiers formed up behind a large curtain that divided them from their Families and friends.
While waiting for the redeployment ceremony to begin, Staff Sgt. Khadijah Garner, operations NCO, confessed the most difficult thing to deal with during the nine-month deployment had been the lack of hugs from her husband, James. Their 5-year-old daughter, Kayleh, agreed.
When the curtain finally rose, the crowd stood and cheered as the Rest Assured Brigade Soldiers were revealed. They remained in formation as the command team, Command Sgt. Maj. Eric L. Taylor and Col. Douglas M. McBride Jr., uncased the colors to officially mark their return.
Following a short welcome home speech the Soldiers were dismissed and reunited with their loved ones. Charity Rivera wrapped her arms around her husband, 1st Lt. Joel Rivera, operations officer, and gave him a long-awaited kiss on the lips.
After greeting her Family, Garner said she is looking forward to a hot shower with no shower shoes and sleeping in her own bed.
I remember being in this same gym, leaving really sad and now its the complete opposite, Garner said.