Story and photo by Dustin Senger
Almost 150 Soldiers stepped into a standing ovation Dec. 4, after returning from Iraq three months early.
Capt. Jeffrey Rawlins, commander of 59th Military Police Company, 759th MP Battalion, entered Waller Physical Fitness Center gymnasium, where he faced bleachers filled with hundreds of Family members and friends. Parents, spouses and children were waving “welcome home” banners and balloons.
With their commander in place, Soldiers from 59th MP filed into the facility and lined up behind him. The company had completed a one-year deployment to Iraq in nine months.
President Barack Obama announced Oct. 21 that 40,000 U.S. servicemembers in Iraq would return “home for the holidays,” according to American Forces Press Service. “After nearly nine years, America’s war in Iraq will be over,” said Obama in the release.
“You were the last (military police) unit to perform detainee operations in Iraq,” said Col. Robert Taradash, commander of 42nd MP Brigade, who arrived for the afternoon ceremony from Fort Lewis, Wash.
“Great job, mission accomplished,” said Taradash.
The 59th MP deployed to Iraq in February for Operation New Dawn. The Soldiers assisted Iraqi correctional officers at Camp Cropper, where they conducted detainee operations for the Iraqi Ministry of Interior and Iraqi Ministry of Justice.
They transferred authority of Camp Cropper to Iraqi officials in August, and then moved to Al Asad Air Base to provide law enforcement duties for 40th MP Bn.
“Thank you for what you do and welcome home,” said Taradash. “Families, I want you to look out there and I want you to find your Soldier … Soldiers, I want you to look out there and find your Family members.”
Exciting the anticipation, Taradash promised to let loose their reunions after two songs. The Soldiers sang the Military Police Regimental March, and then the “The Army Goes Rolling Along.” After the final refrain of the U.S. Army’s official song, Autumn Johnson, 3, was the first to leave the bleachers, running to her father’s arms.
“It was most important to finish out the mission, but being home for Christmas is definitely a perk,” said Staff Sgt. Germell Johnson, while embracing his wife and three children. Johnson was one of the first Soldiers to enter the gymnasium, where his wife, Leticia Johnson, was holding tightly onto Autumn.
“Autumn was going to run when they first came in … she was asking for her dad,” said Leticia Johnson, an Army wife and former Soldier.
“I know how it is,” said Leticia Johnson, who spent the previous evening baking a peanut butter pie with their children. “It’s just something you need to say: ‘he’s going on a mission, he’s going to accomplish it and he’ll be home soon.’”