GARDEZ, Afghanistan — The Spartans line up, possibly for a final time, in Afghanistan. Several hundred soldiers form ranks, one holding the Spartan banner, symbol of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, of the 10th Mountain Division. They're on what passes for the main street at Foward Operating Base Lightning, a small outpost in the eastern part of the country. Officers hand out medals earned during the nine months the Brigade has been deployed here, during which they have lost four soldiers to combat .
This has been the fourth time the Spartans have been sent to Afghanistan since they were formed in 2004, but it will be the last. They are headed home, and with the U.S. ceasing combat operations by the end of the year, the Spartans will not be coming back again.
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"I think it's a good thing there's no more upcoming deployments," said Sargeant Wilfredo Bonilla, adding he's ready for whatever the Army asks of him. Bonilla is typical of the soldiers in this corner of Afghanistan. He's done three deployments, two to Iraq, and one here to Afghanistan.
U.S. Soldiers Prepare to Return From Afghanistan
Captain Greg Durso, himself on his second tour in Afghanistan, said his platoon sergeant on his last tour of duty was on his fifth deployment. "It becomes a way of life and almost too regular, so I'm glad we're getting away from that," he said.
Read more, plus video: http://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/goodbye-afghanistan-u-s-brigade-prepares-leave-good-n148641Welcome home, Lads!