211 Fort Bragg-based paratroopers return home from Afghanistan tonight. Two batteries from the 82nd Airborne Division’s 18th Fires Brigade are scheduled to arrive just after midnight. Colonel Al Shoffner, Commander of the Brigade, says their primary mission was to provide support fire for maneuvering forces in the eastern part of the country.
"One of the two batteries returning partnered with an Afghan artillery unit. It consisted of about 30 Afghan soldiers from one of their artillery companies. And that I think was fairly successful. And I’m sure the soldiers involved appreciated the opportunity to help the Afghans learn a little bit about their trade."
The troops’ deployment lasted 12 months. Now they’ll be home for at least two years.
"We’ll see 211 soldiers walk off the plane. What you’re not seeing is that 3 weeks ago 220 of our soldiers deployed to Afghanistan and replaced the soldiers who are coming home. Our mission in Afghanistan continues. This is just one page in the chapter of our history there."
Shoffner says they were fortunate no one was killed. But the deployment was still costly.
"We had 20 soldiers from these two batteries wounded this past year, and of those 20, 4 of them seriously wounded. We had two amputees and two others with a variety of serious wounds."
He says the homecoming will be an emotional experience.
"Shortly after they walk off the aircraft, they’ll form up into a formation. They’ll walk into essentially a hangar. And all the family members will be there waiting on them. These guys are obviously very very happy to be coming home, and we’re just delighted that the vast majority of them are coming back and coming back safely and in one piece.”