Soldiers from Fort Carson's 3rd Brigade Combat Team are streaming home after nine months in Europe. For some families, the wait has seemed much longer.
"She was 2 months old when I left," Staff Sgt. James Kuritz said as he held his daughter, Mia. "From having a newborn to having a 1-year-old is a big change."
The brigade was busy during its time away, running the biggest series of North Atlantic Treaty Organization training exercises since the end of the Cold War. The troops were spread from the Baltic to the Back Sea, with soldiers in Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary and Germany.
"They conducted more than 80 community engagements and 83 training events with allied counterparts," post spokeswoman Dani Johnson said. But none of the soldiers was as busy as Ashley Burgess. Her husband, Sgt. Kyle Burgess, left for Europe in January, two weeks after the Christmas Day birth of their daughters, Scarlett and Olivia.
"It has been hard," Ashley Burgess said. "A lot of sleepless nights and a lot of tears."
Sgt. Burgess, with the brigade's 3rd Battalion of the 29th Field Artillery Regiment, said the training in Europe was taxing. But the nights thinking of the girls in Colorado Springs might have been more difficult.
"It's been a lot of missing family," he said as he held his pink-clad daughters in his camouflage-covered arms.
About half of the 3,500 soldiers who deployed with the 3rd Brigade have come home. More flights are expected in the coming days.
Leaders of Fort Carson's 4th Infantry Division are used to the comings and goings at what is arguably the Army's busiest post.
Each group of soldiers is greeted with a brief ceremony on returning. Col. Miles Brown, who delivered the welcome-home speech, understands that the troops want to hug their families rather than listen to a long-winded speech from the brass. It took Brown just over 20 seconds from his introduction to the concluding "welcome home."
Capt. Malcolm Rios, a chaplain, has been welcomed back four times after deployments. This deployment was easier than many. In European training, the enemy doesn't shoot back. But the months away from his wife, Amanda, and their two kids ground by slowly.
"This one was harder," he said.
Contact Tom Roeder: 636-0240