Bragg paratroopers return from Afghanistan
Posted December 5, 2014
Fort Bragg, N.C. — The anticipation started building long before the civilian jet packed with Fort Bragg soldiers returning from Afghanistan touched down at the Green Ramp on post Friday morning.
"We're going to pick up daddy! He's on the plane," said Ansleigh Watkins, who was among dozens of other family members waiting for the 100 members of XVIII Airborne Corps.
Christy Watkins, Ansleigh's mother, said it was hard explained daddy's long absence to a 2-year-old.
"We told her that he's at work and he's been at work for a long time," she said.
The soldiers finally arrived to cheers and tears of joy. The welcome home speech was short, but the hugs and kisses were long.
"This is my husband, Jeffrey Johnson," Pam Johnson said. "My husband, my best friend, my life, my world."
Some of the soldiers were surprised at how much their children had grown.
"When I left, this one hadn't started kindergarten. Now he has," Andrew See said of his son. "And this little guy, the youngest, wasn't even crawling. Now, he's a toddler."
The corps was tasked with the transition of security responsibility from the international coalition to Afghan soldiers. The XVIII Airborne Corps is both the first and final corps to serve in Afghanistan, Bragg officials said.
A final group of 20 paratroopers from the unit is scheduled to return home Monday evening, marking the end of the corps' mission, which began in 2002.