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Posted: April 20, 2018 3:20 p.m.
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3rd ID returns home

Sgt. 1st Class Faiza Evans /

3rd ID Commander Maj. Gen. Leopoldo A. Quintas steps off the plane April 18, as the final DHHB Soldiers deployed to Afghanistan return home; and is greeted by the Task Force Marne Command Team of Brig. Gen. Sean C. Bernabe and Command Sgt. Maj. John Johnson.

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More than 100 Soldiers from the 3rd Infantry Division and the Georgia National Guard arrived home to Fort Stewart on April 12, after a nine month deployment to Bagram, Afghanistan. 

The Soldiers flew into Hunter Army Airfield and were greeted by the command teams of Task Force Marne and the Georgia National Guard, as they disembarked the aircraft.   

A security detail escorted busses carrying the Soldiers from Hunter to Cottrell Field for a welcome home ceremony. 

Families of the deployed Soldiers waited anxiously on the field holding up signs with messages to loved ones anticipating the arrival of the busses. 

Brittney Dandridge and her four-year-old son Jaxson eagerly waited on the field for the first glimpse of her husband, Capt. Wesley Dandridge with the Georgia National Guard Main Command Post – Operational Detachment. 

“I have just been filled with praise and gratitude this whole morning,” Brittney said.  “I’m just so thankful they all made it back safely.” 

Desiree Moore jumped up and down in anticipation, after she heard the buses were less than a minute away from the field. 

“I’m waiting for my sister Spc. Daija Mitchell, we can’t wait for her to come out, said Moore.

Also awaiting Mitchell’s arrival was, sister Denea Mitchell and grandmother Yelena Rice. They join in the excitement, holding hands and talking excitedly about how happy they were that she is home. 

The ceremony was brief, the Soldiers lined up behind the hedges on the far end of the field out of view of the Family. Once formed they march through the bushes, to the yells, screams and waving posters of their awaiting family.

Task Force Marne Commander Brig. Gen Sean C. Bernabe was there to address and formally welcome home the Soldiers. 

  “Welcome home, and well done,” Bernabe said, as he addressed the Soldiers before releasing them to be with their families.  “Your individual actions and the actions of your unit over the last few months has helped stabilized that part of the world and I thank you.” 

Bernabe also thanked the Families for their support and sacrifice while their loved one was gone. 

“While you have been deployed, your Family here has thrived,” he added. They have run households, they have contributed to their communities and they have bonded together. You can be proud and thankful for their sacrifice.” 

Not holding up the much anticipated reunion any longer, after singing the Army Song and the Dog Face Soldier song the ceremony concluded and the Soldiers were released. 

Moore, rushed on the field to tackle her sister Mitchell to the ground in a joyous hug. 

“I told them I was going to jump on you,” Moore said to her sister. 

Mitchell, an intel analyst in the intelligence section assigned to the 3rd ID is returning home from her first deployment. 

“I’m happy to be home and I’m glad that my family is here,” Mitchell said. 

Mitchell’s family traveled from Fort Lauderdale, Florida and couldn’t wait to tell her about all the basketball, and football game highlights she missed. 

“I missed watching basketball the most, just being able to watch my sports games. That’s what I missed most, she added. 

Capt. Wesley Dandridge, said he was happy to know his Family was on the field waiting for him and couldn’t wait to be reunited with them. 

“I’m very excited to be back, it’s just the three of us, so being away from them was very challenging, Dandridge said.  “Just knowing she had to be mom, dad and handy man, made it hard on her. I’m happy to be back and help her out.” 

Dandridge is a finance officer in the Georgia National Guard in the MCP-OD, which helps provide the division with additional manpower needed for the deployment. 

Dandridge and his Family live in Kennesaw, Georgia. This is his first deployment and said he expected the deployment to be stressful and challenging.

“I expected the environment to be stressful and the deployment lived up to those expectations some days and other days is was challenging.   It was a true joint environment. I worked alongside Navy Marines, Air Force, contractors and D.A. civilians and that was an adjustment for me.”

The Soldiers had four days to spend with their family and then conducted mandatory reintegration training designed to help them integrate back into their regular life in the states and ensure they have all the resources needed to help with family, health and administrative issues that may have arisen while gone. 

This is the second group of headquarters Soldiers redeploying from the Marne Division. The final group of more than 120 Dog Face Soldiers is slated to return before the end of the month.  

The Marne Division Headquarters was deployed in support of Operation Freedom Sentinel – the U.S. led counterterrorism mission in Afghanistan and Operation Resolute Support – the train, advise, assist and enable mission with the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces.

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