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Layla Crandell, 7½ months, is not quite sure what to make of her dad, Sgt. Joseph Crandell, as she, mom Lena and brother Josiah welcome their soldier home from his deployment to Iraq. Seventy-nine 1st Armored Division soldiers arrived home to Wiesbaden Tuesday afternoon, with more due to arrive in the coming weeks.
Layla Crandell, 7½ months, is not quite sure what to make of her dad, Sgt. Joseph Crandell, as she, mom Lena and brother Josiah welcome their soldier home from his deployment to Iraq. Seventy-nine 1st Armored Division soldiers arrived home to Wiesbaden Tuesday afternoon, with more due to arrive in the coming weeks. (Michael Abrams / S&S)
Layla Crandell, 7½ months, is not quite sure what to make of her dad, Sgt. Joseph Crandell, as she, mom Lena and brother Josiah welcome their soldier home from his deployment to Iraq. Seventy-nine 1st Armored Division soldiers arrived home to Wiesbaden Tuesday afternoon, with more due to arrive in the coming weeks.
Layla Crandell, 7½ months, is not quite sure what to make of her dad, Sgt. Joseph Crandell, as she, mom Lena and brother Josiah welcome their soldier home from his deployment to Iraq. Seventy-nine 1st Armored Division soldiers arrived home to Wiesbaden Tuesday afternoon, with more due to arrive in the coming weeks. (Michael Abrams / S&S)
Cruz, Katie and Lillian Bautista cheer and wave as their soldier, Sgt. 1st Class Melvin Bautista, and 78 other 1st Armored Division soldiers march into the Wiesbaden Fitness Center Tuesday afternoon.
Cruz, Katie and Lillian Bautista cheer and wave as their soldier, Sgt. 1st Class Melvin Bautista, and 78 other 1st Armored Division soldiers march into the Wiesbaden Fitness Center Tuesday afternoon. (Michael Abrams / S&S)
Sgt. 1st Class Melvin Bautista gets a big kiss from wife Katie following his return to Wiesbaden Army Airfield Tuesday afternoon.
Sgt. 1st Class Melvin Bautista gets a big kiss from wife Katie following his return to Wiesbaden Army Airfield Tuesday afternoon. (Michael Abrams / S&S)

WIESBADEN, Germany — The homecoming of the first soldiers with the main body of the 1st Armored Division headquarters was a sensory overload Tuesday afternoon.

The smell of perfume hovered around wives anxiously waiting on the bleachers at the Wiesbaden Fitness Center.

The sound of a hissing smoke machine signaled the entrance of the soldiers who had just completed a roughly 15-month tour in Iraq.

The sight of 79 soldiers striding through the hazy smoke and standing in formation ignited the friends and family members in the crowd.

The touch of reunited families hugging and kissing marked the culmination of the homecoming.

Just before he dismissed the formation of soldiers, Sgt. 1st Class Dionicio Suazo told them to take a deep breath.

"Everybody wants to hear that on day zero," he said. "Today’s day zero."

Suazo can’t breathe deeply too long. He has some work to do as his soldier wife is set to come home soon.

"I’ll have the house cleaned up like everybody is teasing me about, food in the fridge and a home-cooked meal when she comes home," he said.

Staff Sgt. Eugene Bullard arrived home to a new car and a very pregnant wife Tuesday.

Stephanie Bullard surprised her husband by getting him a Cadillac. They’ll also be getting a new addition to the family on Friday when Stephanie is set to give birth to the couple’s second son.

Stephanie said she didn’t plan it this way.

"I don’t like to be overwhelmed," she said. "It’s too much. That’s why I had a panic attack this morning."

Waiting in the bleachers for her husband to arrive, Stephanie said she felt happy and anxious.

"I have butterflies," she said. "It feels kinda weird to have butterflies when you’re pregnant."

Lt. Col. Scott Shore, 1st Armored Division rear detachment commander, cited the unit’s accomplishments during its deployment. Shore said the 1st AD headquarters deployed around the start of the surge.

"There were a lot of people who said the surge wasn’t going to work, but you all said that ‘We’re going to make history,’ " he said. "We knew that it was going to be a pivotal time in Iraq and that you all were going to make history.

"In that 15 months time, attacks are down 80 percent, markets have opened. In fact, there is some stability in Iraq and it’s because of the mission that you guys did."

The arrival of the main-body soldiers Tuesday is the first of what will be the return of roughly 1,200 soldiers to Wiesbaden in the coming weeks.

The 1st Armored Division headquarters deployed to Iraq in September 2007 to command Multinational Division–North from its headquarters at Contingency Operating Base Speicher near Tikrit.

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