While most families celebrated the return of about 350 Fort Carson soldiers with hugs, flowers and photos, Warrant Officer Carl Free’s reunion with his family Saturday marked a different milestone: the reveal of the gender of their third child.
Free, who deployed to Romania and Bulgaria with the Colorado Springs Army post’s 4th Combat Aviation Brigade in June, pricked a balloon that burst with blue confetti: It’s a boy.
“I’m really excited to have another son,” the Black Hawk pilot said while smiling wide, holding the younger of his two boys against his waist.
“No matter what gender, we’d be excited,” said his wife, Robbin, adding that the couple is purchasing a home in Colorado Springs.
Saturday’s homecoming was one of the largest Fort Carson spokesman Sgt. Scott Evans had seen, pointing to the overflow of nearly 100 people standing to the side of the packed bleachers in the William “Bill” Reed Special Events Center, waiting for the brigade’s soldiers to walk through the doors.
The brigade was returning from months overseas in Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuana and Poland as well as Bulgaria and Romania. Soldiers embarked on mission Atlantic Resolve, which builds readiness and bonds between national militaries through training events.
In the nine months since he left for Eastern Europe, Chief Warrant Officer Paul Spallino couldn’t believe how much his four kids had grown.
“You know, I video chatted with them the entire time I was gone, but they still look so different,” he said. His children are ages 3, 5, 7 and 9. “It’s great to be back.”
Spallino, on his first deployment, helped train NATO forces in Poland, Lativia and Germany.
“It’s a unique experience to be in those countries working with soldiers from Canada and across Europe,” he said. “We’re mainly building camaraderie with them, but they have expertise about Europe that we can learn from while we can bring out training expertise to them.”