Maj. Jason Billington, Regimental Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, kisses his daughter Avery, 1, Wednesday during the regiment’s homecoming ceremony after a yearlong deployment in support of Operation New Dawn in Iraq.
 
Family and friends of soldiers in the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment wait for their soldiers to enter Wednesday during a homecoming for the Brave Rifles after a yearlong deployment in support of Operation New Dawn in Iraq.
 
Third Armored Cavalry Regiment soldiers run into a tent erected outside the regiment’s headquarters Wednesday after a yearlong deployment in support of Operation New Dawn in Iraq.

By Colleen Flaherty
Killeen Daily Herald

FORT HOOD — The stateside ranks of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment got bigger Wednesday morning, when Col. Reginald Allen and about 185 other troopers returned after a year in Iraq.

The regimental commander led the final charge of their deployment into a white homecoming tent erected on the unit’s parade field, to the wild cheers of family and friends.

“You have just a done a fantastic job,” Allen told the soldiers who filed into formation behind him.

At a time of transition in the Iraq war, he continued, the 3rd Armored Cavalry was tasked with aiding security in some of the country’s most sensitive provinces, south of Baghdad, and maintained a high operational tempo.

The regiment completed 12,000 patrols, trained thousands of Iraqis and worked intimately with State Department provincial reconstruction teams, the commander said.

“I couldn’t be more proud of them,” Allen said, addressing the crowd, “and you should be proud, as well.”

More than 3,000 troopers deployed to Iraq late last summer to advise and assist Iraqi security forces. In accordance with force cap numbers associated with Operation New Dawn, the official end of combat in Iraq, deployed regimental troop levels fluctuated between 3,100 and 3,700 during the year.

Troops began returning early this month, and most are home. A handful of flights will arrive within the week.

The mission was not without casualties, however, Allen said. Fifteen soldiers died.

Lt. Col. Shawn Perry, the regiment’s rear detachment

commander, said that redeployment signals a new phase of training and supporting soldiers on the home front.

“(This homecoming) offers closure, but the mission’s not done,” he said. Incoming soldiers undergo formal reintegration training and receive some “well deserved” time off.

Spc. James Alvarez, Saber Squadron, said he couldn’t wait to get home and spend time with his wife, Kristen, and his son, Andrew, 15 months, who knows him mostly through Skype.

During Alvarez’s previous deployment, he said, when he had no family of his own, the time passed relatively quickly.

But this time, with a baby and a wife at home, he said, smiling, “I couldn’t get out fast enough.”

For more on Wednesday’s homecoming, read the next Fort Hood Herald.