WHEELER ARMY AIRFIELD, Hawaii - Homemade signs and American flags decorated the walls as more than 160 Soldiers from the 552nd Military Police Company marched in, heads held high, to greet their families here Dec 3.

Soldiers of the company spent the last 15 months in Iraq developing, training, and mentoring members of the Iraqi Police in the Mosul area and participated in 45 named operations, over 2300 combat patrols and more than 275 joint patrols. Col. Clay Hatcher, commander of the 45th Sustainment Brigade, 8th Theater Sustainment Command, thanked the Soldiers and their families.

"We recognize hardship you endured and are extremely proud of each and every one of you," he said.

While the Soldiers accomplished their duties overseas, family members filled in the gaps left by their absence.

"The hardest part was getting used to doing things on my own," said Sgt. Nataly Alfonso, wife of Sgt. Hector Alfonso, a team leader with the 552nd. "The Family Readiness Group helped, and they were always sending me e-mail updates," she continued.

The mother of two children, Nataly continued the bedtime tradition of cookies and milk with her children, a ritual started by her husband prior to the deployment.

"We would eat cookies and talk about where daddy was, and we would pray for him," Nataly said.

All friends and family members in attendance rejoiced in welcoming back their Soldiers; some even traveled thousands of miles for the occasion.

"I'm very proud of him, but I'm mostly just relieved that he's back," said Marvin Niedergall, father of Master Sgt. Dale Niedergall, who traveled from Pennsylvania for the homecoming ceremony.

Staff Sgt. Jeffery Sullivan, assistant squad leader for 3rd platoon, was enthusiastic about the progress the company made during the deployment.

"I think the Iraqi Police made leaps and bounds during our deployment," said Sullivan. "There were lots of changes while we were there, and we adjusted fire and accomplished our mission."

The hard work of each Soldier did not go unnoticed; the Military Police Company's dedication resulted in the Soldiers earning a variety of awards including seven Purple Hearts, 102 Combat Action Badges, 29 Bronze Star Medals, 128 Army Commendation Medals and 22 Army Achievement Medals.

"The noncommissioned officers did exactly what they were supposed to do and led from front. I'm extremely proud and grateful for them," said 1st Lt. Charles Mallard, 3rd platoon leader with the 552nd. This being his first deployment, Sullivan ended with a positive attitude. "Overall it was great experience with a great bunch of guys," he said, "I would deploy with the same team again in a heartbeat."