FORT CARSON, Colo. - Nearly 550 soldiers with the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division returned Tuesday to Fort Carson after a nine-month deployment in Afghanistan.
A morning homecoming for 250 soldiers was held at the Special Events Center after being postponed Monday. The remaining 300 returned at 5:30 p.m.
Hundreds of families were reunited in time for the holidays. The 5,000-member unit deployed in February and began returning before Thanksgiving.
Sgt. Shannon Svoboda held his six-week-old son for the first time.
Three families cited social media as an important tool in helping them maintain relationships. The wives, who gave birth to their first babies just before their husbands deployed, said they kept in touch via Facebook and Skype. Those families said the contact made it easier for the infants to recognize their fathers during Tuesday's homecoming.
"He saw me right away," said CPT Michael Frey of his infant son, Gage. "He put his head down right on my chest like he was all normal with me, and I'm hearing him say 'Da-Da' every now and then, and I heard him say it on Skype, too. Now it kind of all hits me, you know?"
Another soldier found a different reception.
"I don't think he remembers me that much," said SFC Steve Turnboo. "But that's OK. We'll ease back into it. It'll be frustrating for me, too."
"In our previous deployments, social media wasn't as prevalent," said Frey's wife, Megan. "It just wasn't as readily available. I think it's important for our children and our relationships."
During its deployment, the brigade operated 30 bases, combat outposts and observation posts covering an area the size of Maryland. Soldiers supervised the building of schools, road projects and infrastructure improvements.
"We also empowered the Afghan security forces to conduct security operations on their own," said MAJ Christian Keels. "And it's surprising how much they've been able to pick up, and how much security they've actually been able to enforce throughout the area that we were working in."