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BAMBERG, Germany — It was the last few hours that seemed to tick by slowest for Rita Haynie.

“It’s unbelievable. The nine months he was gone seemed to go by faster,” Haynie said. She was among scores of family members anxiously awaiting the return of a team of Bamberg-based troops from Afghanistan.

Soldiers with the 16th Sustainment Brigade returned home late Wednesday, reuniting with families after a nine month deployment. A group of about 150 soldiers from the brigade’s headquarters spent their tour working alongside Afghan security forces, training them on how to manage the logistics of war — Maintaining vehicles and supply lines, accounting for ammunition and weapons.

But there was little talk Thursday of mission at the Freedom Fitness Facility on Bamberg’s Warner Barracks, which has been the scene of dozens of redeployment ceremonies during more than a decade of war.

“It’s been a hard nine months. A lot of ups and downs,” said Bamberg spouse Monique Conde as she waited for her husband. “Thank God it’s over.”

“I can’t wait to see him,” added son Joshua, 14, speaking of his father, Sgt. 1st Class Joshua Conde. “I can’t wait to play sports and just chill with him.”

As the war in Afghanistan winds down, there will be fewer such redeployments. And Thursday’s ceremony in Bamberg could be one of the last to be held in this soon-to-close military community. The Bamberg garrison is slated to shutter in 2014 as part of the Army’s reorganization in Europe, which involves some units disbanding and others heading to different locations.

Most members of the 16th Sustainment Brigade, who were not part of the Afghanistan deployment, have already made the move to the unit’s new headquarters in Baumholder, Germany. The rest of the brigade, including many of the troops returning from Afghanistan, will be making that move in the months ahead.

“It’s been a sad time here to leave Bamberg,” said Maj. Tenn Chowfen, part of the unit’s rear detachment team. “The soldiers have loved their time here.”

As families gathered at the Freedom Fitness Facility, anticipation mounted. An hour went by, then another; finally a message:

“They’ve left the airport,” a soldier announced over the loudspeaker. An hour later: “They’re in the parking lot… They’re at the gate.”

Moments later, the troops were in formation behind a partition. As the curtain lifted, family members screamed. After the unit’s colors were uncased and commander Col. Darren Werner declared the troops were “dismissed,” families charged toward the waiting soldiers.

Rita Haynie, carrying her two year old daughter Ila, hunted for Staff Sgt. Herman Haynie.

“Where’s daddy, where’s daddy,” she said.

Moments later the reunion was complete with a family hug.

“It feels great. Nine months is too long to be gone,” Staff Sgt. Haynie said. “But right now it’s all worth it.”

vandiver.john@stripes.com

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John covers U.S. military activities across Europe and Africa. Based in Stuttgart, Germany, he previously worked for newspapers in New Jersey, North Carolina and Maryland. He is a graduate of the University of Delaware.
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