JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. – Raider families and friends gathered to welcome back approximately 350 soldiers, the largest wave to date, from 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, who returned home after a seven-month deployment to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, June 23.<br /> <br /> According to Col. Michael Getchell, 4th SBCT, 2nd Inf. Div. commander, June stands as the last full month remaining for the brigade’s deployment. The Raiders, who have been operating bases since November as part of Combined Task Force 4-2, have continued to demilitarize or transfer installations to their Afghan National Security Force partners.<br /> <br /> With the transition of bases comes the drawdown of Raiders in theater. Most Soldiers are expected to be back or en route to Joint Base Lewis-McChord by the middle of July.<br /> <br /> “The Raiders continue their march ‘To The Objective’ until our mission is complete. Thanks for all that you do for that mission, and for our Soldiers, Families, and Team of Teams!” wrote Getchell in a letter downrange.<br /> <br /> The atmosphere at Soldiers Field House for this, the eighth homecoming ceremony since early re-deployment flights began in March, was filled with as much anticipation as any of the previous seven reunions.<br /> <br /> Family members and friends awaited the arrival of those dear to them from whom they’d been separated for many months. Some sat, some stood, some moved around, individually or in groups. The murmur of conversation, the sound of brass instruments and restless children drifted around the space and toward the ceiling above.<br /> <br /> A cheer raised by hundreds in one voice, accompanied by applause, grew in volume and reached a high point as the returning Soldiers appeared and marched in formation to step through a side door onto the polished floor of the gym.<br /> <br /> Rank upon rank, the Raiders formed up and faced the bleachers, greeted by smiling faces, happy tears, waving hands, and signs to welcome them home. They rendered honors to the flag at the playing of the national anthem in a somber moment shared by all.<br /> <br /> Then, three mercifully short words: “Welcome back!” Pause. “Dismissed!”<br /> <br /> Reunions were complete.<br /> <br /> The returning Raiders were part of Combined Task Force 4-2, which is responsible for providing security force assistance as Afghan National Security Forces conduct wide-area security operations. The CTF 4-2 also provides support to the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan as it strengthens governance efforts to neutralize threats to stability, retain and expand security gains and facilitate transition to follow-on forces.<br /> <br /> The early redeployment of soldiers is part of an overall plan to withdraw 34,000 service members by February 2014, as announced by President Obama in his 2013 State of the Union address. As the Afghan National Security Forces increasingly take the lead for the security of their country, military personnel, including Soldiers from 4th SBCT, 2nd Inf. Div. will re-deploy back to JBLM in the coming months.