Local Troops Continue to Return

President Bush held a wide-ranging news conference today, speaking about everything from the economy to the hunt for Saddam Hussein. Most of his time was spent speaking about postwar Iraq, including bringing Third Infantry Division soldiers home.

"Third ID, which has conducted a lot of the major military operations in the beginning of the war, now has a definite return time home, which is a positive thing," he said. "There's been some concern from Third ID families and I can understand that, now it's clear to them what the rotation plan is."

There are still thousands of Third ID soldiers in Iraq, and according to Washington, the plan is to have them all home by September. Some are already returning. This afternoon, 260 of them were welcomed back to Fort Stewart. Soldiers from the First Battalion, 3rd Air Defense Artillery, 3rd Battalion 69th Armor and the 703rd Maintenance Support Battalion returned home after more than six months away from their families. If all goes as planned, we should continue to see more and more of these big homecomings. But no matter how many homecomings you see, each one is special, especially for the soldiers on the receiving end of the welcome.

After leading the troops right through Baghdad, Col. Ernest Marcone is happy to lead them back to their families. He said, "It's a relief to have these guys home and safe with their families and I know their families were excited."

CSM Johnnie Moore can't wait to get home, but he still has his mind on his soldiers.

"Make sure all my soldiers are squared away and have their proper place to live, then I'm going to go home and soak in a bathtub for a couple of days," he said. "Water is a welcome sight."

Many of these soldiers are thinking about the troops who are still in Iraq. About the President's plan to bring them home, PFC Timothy Kiefer had this to say: "They need to come home. Our work isn't totally done there, but as far as the Third ID, we did our job and accomplished our mission and it's time for us to come home."

Reported by: Liz Flynn, lflynn@wtoc.com