They know they're home for now, but exactly where they'll be in the next few years most of them really can't tell.
The Fourth Stryker Brigade based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord is wrapping up its duty in Afghanistan. Several hundred soldiers arrived today and members of the Brigade should fly home late next week.
But along with the tears and elation of homecoming is a touch of uncertainty. The Fourth is being disbanded because of the U.S. military drawdown in the Middle East. These mobile mechanized forces, which have been so important in Iraq and Afghanistan, will be less heavily used as the involvement there ends and the military shifts its focus and its troops to be ready for challenges in very different environments around the Pacific Rim.
Lt. Colonel Joe Sowers said this brigade is one of 10 combat brigades around the country that will be dispersed by 2017.
"We don't know exactly when," he said. The actual formal orders haven't come in yet, even though the army has announced the changes will be made.
Some Stryker soldiers will be reassigned to the remaining Stryker units and many will leave the military as their tours of duty end naturally. What happens to the others is not clear at this point.
Some soldiers returning home today took the uncertainty with a shrug.
"As a soldier you have to stay flexible, I guess," said Specialist Blanca Martinez. "I don't know, you go with the flow."
Others, like Tiffany Bjorklund, who is married to a Stryker soldier and serves in the army herself, will admit it's a little unsettling having the future be so murky.
"We're a dual-military family. He's in a unit that's deactivating and I'm in a unit that's deactivating. And we're on orders. So we'll just see where life takes us."