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Fort Stewart families welcome their heroes back home
3rd Infantry Division returns from deployment to eastern Europe
Charlotte and Madison Eisenhauer give their father, Sgt. 1st Class Louis Eisenhauer, a tight embrace as he returned home from a nine-month deployment to eastern Europe. - photo by PAT DONAHUE

Fort Stewart families trundled down the Newman Physical Fitness Center bleachers this week, racing into the arms of their soldier loved ones standing on the gym floor.

Those families, and the 3rd Infantry Division, welcomed back the last of the main body flights carrying 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team soldiers home from a nine-month deployment to Eastern Europe. The brigade, along with soldiers from the division headquarters, artillery and sustainment brigade, had been part of Operation Atlantic Resolve, an effort to deter further Russian aggression in Europe.

For the families, the mission was to see in person finally those soldiers they had seen only through Facetime or other venues. 

“It’s an indescribable feeling. I’m so happy to see my girls,” said Sgt. 1st Class Louis Eisenhauer, as his two young daughters Charlotte and Madison clutched on to him. “This is great. I couldn’t be happier right now.”

After the soldiers marched into the gym, Col. Grant Fawcett, the division deputy commander for support, gave them a quick word of thanks before releasing them to their families. 

Fort Stewart families wait in the Newman Physical Fitness Center bleachers. - photo by PAT DONAHUE

“My heart starting beating really hard,” Sgt. 1st Class Eisenhauer. “I couldn’t wait to see them. I saw the sign and I could tell they couldn’t see me right away and they were looking a little worried, so I made sure to make a beeline for them.”

It was the end of the fourth deployment in Sgt. 1st Class Eisenhauer’s career and the third with his family. 

“We just tried to stay in a routine, go to school, and try to do fun stuff,” said his wife Ashley Eisenhauer. “It’s hard. We Facetime every day, we text. We’re thankful for technology to keep us connected.”

The redeployment ceremony was the last of the main body flights to return. The trail party is expected to return to Fort Stewart this weekend, bringing back the final soldiers after the 3rd ID’s handover of responsibilities in eastern Europe to elements of the 1st Cavalry Division.

“We’ve had Spartan Brigade soldiers deployed for over nine months in multiple countries across Europe,” Col. Fawcett said, “and it’s an extremely exciting time for them to come home and reunite with friends and families. 

“The sense of accomplishment they have when they redeploy and know they have done a great job overseas, you just can’t match that feeling.”

Col. Fawcett also said it was beneficial for the soldiers to train alongside NATO allies and while they conducted the same kind of training they take part in places such as the National Training Center, getting to work side-by-side with forces from Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Poland was something that can’t be replicated on Fort Stewart’s 280,000 acres.

“It means something when the United States of America deploys American soldiers to those countries over there,” he said.

With the Eisenhauers, the first order of business now that he’s home is putting the backyard splash pad to use.

“Get outside and get in the water,” he said. 

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