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Soldiers end 9-month deployment just in time for the holidays

Fort Bliss soldiers return from a 9-month deployment.

Friday, a group of Fort Bliss soldiers officially ended their nine-month deployment to Afghanistan.

The soldiers returned a few weeks ago to Fort Bliss, but today the post held an uncasing ceremony where the company’s flags were uncased. Col. Eric Strong, commander of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, says the uncasing ceremony is a symbolic ceremony the Army holds for returning troops.

"Officially, it represents the reunion of the brigade and the brigade's return to Fort Bliss," said Strong. "We uncase our colors that have flown and followed the unit everywhere."

Soldiers were seen with smiles on their faces as they stood on the parade field watching the company flags be uncased one at a time. Family and friends watched on.

"It is that physical representation of the men and women that form the Ready First Combat Team as well as our families, community, and Fort Bliss at large," said Strong. "It's to say 'Hey! We're back home, and we are united as a brigade and we're ready to start our training for our next mission.'"

Strong said the brigade served two missions while in Afghanistan for nine months.

"We served a deployed mission in Afghanistan where we centered around, training, advising, assisting Afghan army and police units," said Strong. "As well as enabling other army units across Afghanistan. Simultaneously, we also had a mission for the army and the nation here at Fort Bliss which was staying ready."

He says the mission of being the "Ready First" brigade is meant to keep the soldiers on their toes and ready to go at a moment’s notice on a mission. That type of training can cause stress on some of the soldiers, but Strong said they executed the plan, flawlessly.

"It is a long time, but it's a very important mission that we have. It's very important what we are doing," he said.

Shea Phillips is in the Army herself, but she's been home for the past nine months taking care of her son while her husband was deployed. She said having her husband back makes a world of difference.

"Everybody always says when the spouse leaves, Murphy's law kicks in," she said. "You become the mechanic, the school teacher, the cook, everything. Some of those things your husband took on. So, we just kind of band together."

She said her son was very excited to see his father again when he finally returned home.

"Just a couple of minutes and of course they're thick as thieves again playing together," Phillips said as she teared up. "You're going to make me cry! "

Phillips knows the Army way means both herself and her husband will be ready to answer the call whenever they may be needed next. But for now, she's has one message for the Army.

"Thank you Army for bringing them home for Thanksgiving and Christmas! It's perfect!"

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