WHEELER ARMY AIRFIELD, Hawaii -- Six-year-old Gianette Toro held up her "Welcome Home" sign, wearing an Army Combat Uniform patrol cap, showing no lack of energy given the late hour. Gianette, her brother Yaddiel, and mother, Yessirel were waiting patiently for the 12:45 a.m. ceremony start time so they could unveil a special surprise for Sgt. Jaime Toro, returing from a 15-month deployment to Iraq.

"I'm nervous and I can't wait to see him," said Yessirel Toro.

More than 180 Soldiers from two Hawaii-based units, the 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team of the 25th Infantry Division and the 728th Military Police Battalion, returned from 15-month deployments to Iraq early Tuesday morning to a joyous reception at the Wheeler Army Airfield Multiple Deployment Facility.

In his brief remarks during the ceremony, 8th Personnel Center director Col. Tim Ryan paid tribute to the Soldiers' sacrifices.

"The historians are going to write great stories about you (Soldiers), but first, your families can't wait to get their arms around you," he said. "Welcome home."

More than 100 Soldiers from the 2nd SBCT arrived at Hickam Air Force Base Monday night from Iraq, the first wave of more than 4,500 troops that will return through the end of February.

"Fifteen months is a long time to be gone and it's great to be back," said Lt. Col. David Davidson, deputy brigade commander, 2nd SBCT. "We have more than 4,000 Soldiers who are still in the fight, so we're setting the conditions for them here at home, preparing to reunite and reintegrate with families and loved ones."

The 2nd SBCT Soldiers completed more than 30,000 combat patrols, most of them with Iraqi Security Forces, directly resulting in a major decrease in violence in Multi-National Division-North. The "Warrior" Soldiers, along with their Iraqi counterparts, found 1,100 weapons caches, completed 150 school projects, and provided 1,067 micro-grants to Iraqi citizens totaling more than $2 million.

2nd SBCT Soldiers earned four Bronze Star medals with Valor device, 15 Army Commendation medals with "V" device, and 35 Purple Heart medals.

The Headquarters Detachment of the 728th Military Police Battalion also wrapped up a very successful deployment with their return to Hawaii. The MPs opened up the first Iraqi Police Academy in Diyala Province where they trained more than 5,000 IPs, and led the Military Police surge into the city of Mosul, directly improving the capabilities of the 12,000 IPs in the city and decreasing insurgent activities in the region.

"Iraq is a safer place today because of the hard work of our Soldiers," said Lt. Col. Brian Bisacre, 728th MP Bn commander. "Our Soldiers set the conditions for the Iraqis to win in 2009."

The contributions of the 728th MP Bn weren't only confined to the nation of Iraq. Soldiers also held the first-ever "Troy Barbosa Special Olympics Law Enforcement Torch Run" at Contingency Operating Base Speicher, raising more than $5,000 for the Special Olympics in Hawaii.

As the Tropic Lightning March and the Army Song came to a close, the Soldiers and families waited for the command of "dismissed", prepared to reunite after a long separation. Yessiel Toro, 5-months-pregnant, surprised her husband by bringing in his mother, father, and other family members from his hometown of Caborojo, Puerto Rico. It was all a bit overwhelming for Sgt. Toro, an infantryman with 1st Bn., 14th, Inf. Regt., "Golden Dragons".

"It's a great feeling, I can't believe my family is all here," he said. "We (Soldiers) made a huge difference in Iraq, but we still have a lot of our Soldiers fighting there and this deployment won't be complete until we get all our brothers home."

Page last updated Fri October 14th, 2011 at 13:07