There’s a scene playing out at the Fort Campbell airfield like clockwork. Wives, husbands, parents and kids line up along portable fencing. And as soldiers begin filing off the plane from nine months in Afghanistan, a cheer erupts.
“Daddy, daddy, daddy,” yells one young girl, trying to get the attention of her father.
Troops are returning by the hundreds this week. But even with combat operations in Afghanistan winding down, families say they fully believe this deployment won’t be their last.
New, lighter rotation schedules should give troops more than a year at home. Still, there’s a sense deployment orders will come again.
“You’re active duty. There’s always a possibility,” says Consuela Princivil, whose husband just returned with the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade. “I would prefer it not be, but I’m realistic. I’m just going to be happy he’s touched down, and we’ll deal with it when it comes.”
The hundreds of soldiers returning this week will have roughly a month of downtime before restarting their training regimen and waiting for their next assignment.
Many of their immediate plans are spelled out on the signs waved during the homecoming events. One held by a young boy reads, “daddy, let’s wrestle.” Another says, “time to put a bun in the oven.”
“We’ve talked about it numerous times,” says Doug Lynch, whose wife Aja is coming home from her second tour of duty. “This is to kind of catch her off guard and make her laugh.”
Lynch is part of the 101st Airborne’s 1st Brigade Combat Team and has also been the one gone for a year.
“I was the Army wife on this round,” he says. “It is rough to be on the other end.”
Evy Arias and her two kids have gotten accustomed to Capt. Arias being gone. And while she wants to believe the end of war in Afghanistan will keep him home, she says she also watches the news and expects other country’s will need U.S. troops.
“Whenever you get comfortable, you know things are about to change,” she says. “That’s just Army life.”