Two hundred Fort Carson soldiers came home from Afghanistan Friday, including several fathers who got to meet their babies for the first time.

Apparently, Santa Claus lives at the Pentagon.

The soldiers from the post’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team were pulled out of Afghanistan six months early as part of an Obama administration plan to bring 10,000 soldiers fighting there home by year’s end.

“It’s happy,” said Sgt. Roderick Tacto as he held his 28-day-old daughter, Vianna, like she was made of glass. “It’s so good to see her.”

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Hundreds of Fort Carson troops — almost half of the 3,800-soldier brigade — will return from Afghanistan over the next week. The troops coming home were primarily assigned to western Afghanistan where they trained Afghan troops to take over security missions.

“We locked down our province,” said 1st Sgt. Jon Martinez, the top enlisted soldier in D Company of the brigade’s 1st Battalion of the 67th Armored Regiment.

All 115 soldiers who left Fort Carson last June in Martinez’s company are coming back, he said.

“It’s good,” he said.

A top priority for the brigade was getting new fathers home to meet their babies.

“All of the gifts are bought and wrapped,” said Christine Gonzalez as she waited for her husband, Sgt. Anthony Gonzalez.

The biggest gift is 4-month-old Xaiva, who napped in her mother’s arms as she waited to meet her father for the first time.

Fort Carson officials said as many as three planeloads of soldiers from the brigade are due before Christmas.

In 2010, President Obama boosted the number of American troops in Afghanistan to 100,000 to quell rising violence. In June, he announced the number of American troops in Afghanistan would drop 10,000 by year’s end, with another 23,000 coming home in 2012.

The Afghanistan reduction along with the American pullout from Iraq mean more soldiers will be home this Christmas than at anytime since 2003.

The homecoming boosts the numbers of soldiers on Fort Carson to levels unseen in decades. Starting in 2004, the Pentagon began increasing the number of troops at Fort Carson from 13,500 to 27,000.

The population hasn’t seemed that large because at any given time as many as 10,000 of those soldiers have been deployed overseas.

With the early homecoming of 2nd Brigade, the post will have as many as 23,000 soldiers home for the holidays — the most it has housed since Vietnam.

Holding his smiling 3-month-old son, Zane, for the first time, Sgt. Louis Costa wasn’t thinking about that big picture.

He was thinking about Christmas at home with his four daughters and their baby brother.

“It’s just awesome,” he said.

Contact Tom Roeder: 636-0240

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