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MPs return from 15 months in Afghanistan
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Friends and family brave the morning chill to cheer as soldiers of the 385th Military Police Battalion march onto Fort Stewart's Cottrell Field during the unit's welcome home ceremony Friday before dawn. The unit was deployed to Afghanistan for 15 months training that nation's police. - photo by Kevin Larson / U.S. Army for the Coastal Courier
An icy fog blanketed Cottrell Field early Friday, but it neither chilled nor concealed the joy of the soldiers of the 385th MP Battalion and their families and friends at being reunited after 15 months in Afghanistan.
The welcome home ceremony had been scheduled for 5:15 a.m. Thursday -- St. Valentines Day -- but no one seemed to mind much that the reunions had to be postponed a day.
Asked how she felt about missing the traditionally romantic holiday with her husband, one Army spouse hugged her spouse and said, "It doesn't matter. Every day is Valentine's Day now."
The soldiers were greeted by Lt. Col. Christopher Sallese, whose own 92nd Engineer Combat Battalion recently returned to Fort Stewart from duty in the war on terrorism.
He lauded the MPs for their contributions in providing security for the Afghan people.
"Your combat tour is now complete," Sallese said. "Your hard work and sacrifice has made a difference in Afghanistan."
While in Afghanistan, the unit operated from several forward operating bases and trained Afghan auxiliary, uniformed, border and highway police forces.
More than 150 family members and friends braved the cold to welcome home the MPs. Sallese praised the families for their dedication to their soldiers.
"They cannot do what they do without your support," he said.
Following Sallese's welcome and the singing the national anthem, the Marne Song and the Army Song, the family members and friends rushed from the parade field's reviewing stands to greet their soldiers.
More than 240 Fort Stewart soldiers are returning to the installation in the current wave or redeployments. The 293rd MP Company is scheduled to return this week and the 38th EOD Company was welcomed back Tuesday.
More redeployments are expected in March as units of the division trickle back home in a flow extending into 2009.
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