The wait is over for friends and families of the 291st Military Police Company, 40th Military Police Internment and Resettlement Battalion.
Loved ones packed the 15th Military Police Brigade motor pool with signs and balloons welcoming their deployed soldiers home Tuesday after a nine-month deployment in Afghanistan.
On the way to the motor pool, three buses of returning soldiers were escorted by a motorcycle contingent of veterans and soldiers, past yellow hand-tied ribbons, flags and homemade welcome home signs the family readiness group posted to trees and poles along the return route the previous weekend.
The motor pool was decorated with balloons and signs volunteers spent Monday working on. Families received movie night packages with popcorn buckets, candy and a free movie. Single soldiers’ rooms were prepared for their return with made beds and gift baskets the FRG made with essential items to hold them over for a few days such as new sheets, towels, laundry baskets, hygiene items, snacks and water.
“Soldiers of the 291st, welcome back from Afghanistan,” said Col. Erica Nelson, commander of the 15th Military Police Brigade and commandant of the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks.
More than 100 soldiers in the 291st MP Company deployed for detainee operations and to train, advise and assist the Afghan National Army in detention operations.
“This was an incredibly complex and highly visible mission, and the warriors excelled,” Nelson said. “Warriors, you are the first unit from the Griffin Brigade to deploy to Afghanistan, and we are very proud of how you represented the brigade, our Army and our nation.”
Unlike previous 12-month deployments, the new Armywide nine-month deployments are shorter but don’t allow time for soldiers to take leave during deployment.
For Jenni Seim, she said waiting for her husband, Sgt. Carl Seim, to return seemed longer than his first deployment, but she took it one day at a time and received the “best” gift of his return on her birthday.
“I’m relieved it is here,” she said. “This is it.”
Seim’s son, Nate, 10, said he was looking forward to beating his dad at video games and daughter Savannah, 13, said she was looking forward to him just being home.
For families of deployed soldiers, programming was available to help ease the wait, including FRG events, monthly dinners at Frontier Chapel and Army Community Service’s “We Are in This Together” events, including a weekly walking group called Walk Off the Wait, monthly arts and crafts nights with stations for scrapbooking, quilting and stamping, and a prayer wall at the 40th Military Police I/R Battalion.
Shelly Cox and Richard Ewert’s two sons, Staff Sgt. Matthew Ewert and Sgt. Tyler Ewert and daughter-in-law Sgt. Hannah Ewert were deployed together with the 291st MP Company. Husband and wife Matthew and Hannah have three daughters, ages 2, 3 and 4.
Hannah’s mother, Sharon Cosper, took care of the couples’ daughters while their parents were deployed.
“I think what helps is having Facetime and all of this technology these days,” Cosper said. “They are able to Facetime with the kids and interact with them that way. That helps a lot.”
Cox said it’s been stressful with her sons and daughter-in-law deployed, but the family came together.
“We’ve all come together as a big family, and we’ve all pitched in and helped,” Cox said.
For Tyler Ewert, deployment was something he wanted to do. He wasn’t originally assigned for deployment, but volunteered.
“It was something I always wanted to do,” he said. “Ever since I was little I wanted to deploy. When the opportunity came up I just figured that was my opportunity to take it … I wasn’t as homesick as most people were, because I had my brother there. If I had a day off or was having a long day I could go to his room, get him to go eat breakfast and kind of keep our minds off work.”
His brother, Matthew, said he was happy to see his daughters but serving with his wife and brother was very rewarding.
“It made it a lot easier,” Matthew Ewert said. “I’d see other peoples’ struggles weren’t quite mine because I still had family that was with me. I’m kind of grateful for that.”
It was Spc. Brandi Strachan’s first deployment, and she said she considered it a success.
“We went there with a job and came home with everyone,” Strachan said.
Soldiers will complete a 10-day training cycle to get reintegrated. Following that they will enjoy an extended block leave.
A formal welcome-home ceremony for the soldiers will be at 4 p.m. Aug. 8 at the Post Theater.