FORT RUCKER, Ala. (February 20, 2014) -- Close to 20 Soldiers were met with cheers, hugs and tears of joy as they returned to Fort Rucker from a nearly six-month deployment.

Families and friends gathered at the Spiritual Life Center Feb. 17 to welcome back Soldiers of the 164th Theater Airfield Operations Group from their deployment to Kuwait and Afghanistan, where the unit focused on transitions while maintaining standardization and safety advances, according to Col. Michael L. Shenk, commander of the 164th TAOG.

"We basically supervised units," he said. "The brigade headquarters provides the staff planning and the command leadership for the battalions on the airfields in Afghanistan and Kuwait, and this time we had one operating in (both), and both of which finished their missions."

The unit deployed in September of last year, and this deployment differed from previous ones in that its duration was shorter.

"We had an eight-month deployment last year," said Shenk. "This year, we only had (less than a six-month) deployment because we had the chance to finish the mission early."

Despite being a relatively short deployment, Soldiers like Capt. Francena Walker, 164th TAOG, said that there is nothing like being home.

"It feels great to be back, it's one of the best feelings I've ever felt -- to be back with my Family," she said. "It's always hard to leave Family, especially when you have such a supportive Family like I do that have always had my back. That's the hardest part of a deployment."

Walker, who now has three deployments under her belt, said she relies on spiritual guidance and the thought of returning home to her Family to help get her through her deployments.

"I rely on my heavenly Father," she said. "I made sure I went to church, worked out, connected with friends and stayed in contact with my Family when I could."

Although Walker has been through many deployments, she said that it's not something that is easy to get used to. It's something that's not just tough on her, but her entire Family, added Francena's brother, Joseph.

"I'm just very happy to see her, I'm so glad," he said. "She's been gone for a long time and we're just glad she's back. When she's gone, I was just hoping that she stayed safe and I just pray that the Lord kept His hand on her."

Returning from a deployment comes with a bevy of emotions and the journey from a deployment is one thing that can add to the stresses, but despite the long hours, the excitement when returning is indescribable, said Shenk.

"Coming back there's a bit of mixed emotions because we've been up for about 50 hours," said the colonel. "It's a very long travel process with the airports and the bus rides, so it's very tiresome. But the troopers get very excited when we get back and a lot of these (Soldiers) are first-time deployers, so it's very exciting for them."