Military Matters: III Corps Returns to Fort Hood, Will Resume "A - kcentv.com - KCEN HD - Waco, Temple, and Killeen

Military Matters: III Corps Returns to Fort Hood, Will Resume "At Duty" Wednesday

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Another big step Sunday in drawing down forces in Afghanistan, and in bringing our Fort Hood soldiers home.

After months of transferring authority, the 18th Airborne out of Fort Bragg is in charge of ISAF Joint Command, and III Corps is back home.

It's been a long ten months overseas for Lt. Col. Kevin Badger.

"Long days, and grueling weeks, but we're very glad to be home with family," Badger said.

His family's pretty glad, too.

"He's gone all the time. It's horrible," said his daughter, Peyton. "I have to do a lot of chores."

"It's good to be normal for a bit," his son, Braxton Swanke, said.

Badger's one of the final members of III Corps headquarters back on Texas soil. 

"It was a good 10 months," said Col. Matt Holt. "Very challenging, but very worthwhile."

"Working for Gen. Milley was a real treat," added Col. Tania Martin. "We all learned a lot and enjoyed the experience."

Lt. Gen. Mark Milley was just as happy to be home as the soldiers serving under him.

"Always great to be back in Texas," he said in an exclusive interview with KCEN once he was on the ground.

The soldiers who returned home Sunday are the last of the III Corps HQ serving in Afghanistan.

Since they've been there, the Afghan military has been able to take the reigns of their own country.

"They are, in fact, in the lead now," Milley said. "That was a huge step, big step. First time it's happened in over 12 years of war there."

They've also cut U.S. and NATO troops in the country to about 50,000, down from 150,000 when they deployed.

"It's been really hard," said Samantha Payne, whose husband came home Sunday. "It's definitely a long deployment."

Not all Fort Hood soldiers are back -- they're still part of the 34,000 American troops in Afghanistan -- but for III Corps HQ, their mission is over.

It was a short ceremony on post to reunite families. And the homecoming was a mouth-watering one. 

"We are going to go eat a hamburger. My husband's dying for a really good, juicy hamburger," said Sloane Northridge, whose husband also came home Sunday.

"I'm ready to get him back on the grill," said Alan Badger, Kevin's brother. "I know he's excited for that."

"We'll do some steak and potatoes, some good old Texas barbecue," Kevin Badger said, the perfect way to welcome home a good old Texas solider. 

"Texas can be rightly proud of the III Corps and what we accomplished this past year," Milley said.

III Corps took charge in Afghanistan with four major goals: Two of them were to fight terrorism and redeploy forces. The other two -- to give Afghan forces more power and to secure free elections.

"Put them in the lead so that they're defending and fighting for their own country," said Milley. He added they did just that.

Now they return home, heads held high.

"I'm definitely happy to be home with my family," Martin said, "but there's something special about deploying with a good group of people."

Banners were displayed everywhere, families looked on anxiously, and finally, the soldiers walked into the headquarters to greet their loved ones.

"Just get back together, like partners again," said Maria Rivera, who greeted her husband of more than two decades, "like best friends again."

It was another tough deployment: "We all just come together as a family and you know, just help each other out. So we cope," Swanke said.

But now that they're back in Texas, "it'll be good to take a couple days off and relax with them," Badger said.

And as for Milley's first order of business stateside: "I'm looking for a big Texas steak," he said with a laugh.

And some time to digest, before picking up duties again on post on Wednesday.

Even though III Corps is back on Fort Hood, Milley is not technically "at duty" as commanding general.

He'll take on his normal duties here at home at an uncasing ceremony Wednesday at 10 a.m.

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