FORT BENNING GA - About 65 Soldiers from the 233rd Transportation Company are back at Fort Benning after a yearlong deployment to Iraq.

Family and friends packed Freedom Hall on Sunday morning as 57 members of 4th Platoon landed at Lawson Army Airfield. A smaller advance party from the unit arrived home Aug. 8.

This marked the transportation company's sixth deployment for Operation Iraqi Freedom. The previous five were six months in duration.

SSG William Marshall said he's been a part of all six deployments.

"It feels great," he said of the homecoming. "This is a big relief. It's like we let all the air out ... I just want to relax and kiss all my babies."

Marshall's welcome party included wife Kristina, their three children and his mother, Bethany.

The Soldiers were assigned to the 264th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 16th Sustainment Brigade, at Contingency Operating Base Speicher, near Tikrit in northern Iraq.

They provided logistical support to units from Camp Adder southeast of Baghdad all the way up to Mosul, said 1LT Kimberly Ordonez, the platoon leader.

CPT Kendra Keiser, a spokeswoman for the 13th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, said the company's mission was to provide heavy equipment transportation in support of all Iraq operations, including reception, staging, onward movement, integration and retrograde of equipment from theater. The platoon logged about 115,000 miles and hauled more than 13,000 tons of equipment, she said.

Loved ones gathered early at Freedom Hall to wait for the plane.

"I'm just ready for him to come home," said Shaneeka Phillips, while waiting for her boyfriend, SGT Justin Leverett. "It's been hard because I've been lonely and wondering what's going on with him over there."

She said they talked to each other daily on the phone. The couple plans to take a vacation in Florida.

PFC Corey Durham, returning from his first deployment, was greeted by someone he's never met - his 2-month-old baby girl, Julianne. He had only seen her on a webcam while communicating with his wife, Lindsey.

"I can't explain it," he said. "Being able to hold her for the first time is just amazing. (The deployment) was tough, but I'm here now - so it's better."

Lindsey Durham said the separation was difficult on many levels.

"He really hasn't seen his wife, either," Lindsey said. "In the past two years, we've only spent about eight months together."

After arriving at Fort Benning last summer, Durham immediately found out he was going to Iraq. He and Lindsey, both natives of Phenix City, spent three weeks planning their wedding. The following day, he left for pre-deployment training at Fort Stewart, Ga. Lindsey learned she was pregnant in October, she said.

Now that he's returned from the desert, the Durhams said they don't have any big plans. They just want to hang around the tricommunity and be a family.

"We haven't got to do that," Lindsey said.

After receiving a 48-hour local pass, the platoon began a 10-day reintegration schedule Wednesday, officials said. The Soldiers will get about a month of block leave starting Sept. 2.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16