Fort Stewart Plans for Soldiers' Return - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

06/19/03

Fort Stewart Plans for Soldiers' Return

We've seen hundreds of happy homecomings, but thousands are still overseas. We've seen hundreds of happy homecomings, but thousands are still overseas.

Recent homecomings have other military families still wondering when their soldier will return. The Army says there's no definite answer. That means basically two things: take rumors with more than a grain of salt and families won't know until they know.

Hinesville has become a city of signs. They praise Third Infantry soldiers for a job well done. Some even welcome them home. But only a few hundred have returned to see those signs. Wholesale fighting in Iraq has been over for weeks, but enough resistance continues to keep local troops there a little longer. The only thing anyone knows right now is they won't come home all at once.

"That hasn't happened and probably won't happen," said Rich Olson, a spokesman for the Third Infantry Division. "Units will be scheduled to return as the theater commander sees an end to their mission."

Post leaders say families should ignore any long-range predictions. When the soldiers get their orders to return to Fort Stewart, they'll probably get no more than four days' notice. And as with anything in the Army, the orders are subject to change. Families will hear the news as soon at Fort Stewart gets it. Once the soldiers leave Iraq, the trip home should be brief.

"Our understanding is the aircraft are already dedicated to the return mission," said Olson. "So there should be no problem once the unit is released from their mission in the Gulf."

Olson says each unit will be welcomed back the same, whether they're large or small, the first one back or the last. Olson says as the soldiers return, they'll have a few days to spend with families, then it will be time to get back into training.

Nearby, the City of Hinesville is planning a welcome back celebration. However, they're looking at dates in September or October, to make sure everyone is home.

Reported by: Dal Cannady, dcannady@wtoc.com

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