By Sgt. Jennifer Premer, 45th Sustainment Brigade Public AffairsJanuary 14, 2009
WHEELER ARMY AIRFIELD, Hawaii -- Rainbow-colored signs, stars and stripes, and flowers filled the room as family and friends gathered here as more than 200 Soldiers from the 536th Maintenance Company were welcomed home Jan. 10.
Soldiers of the company played a vital role in vehicle upkeep as the only direct-support maintenance company on Camp Taji, Iraq, located approximately 10 miles north of Baghdad. Additionally, the Soldiers of the unit, part of the 524th Combat Service Support Battalion, also provided convoy security and worked with the Iraqi military providing them maintenance and supply assistance and training.
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. Hatcher also thanked family members who filled in the gaps left by the Soldiers while they accomplished their duties overseas.
Spc. Steve Copestick, a generator mechanic, said the hardest part was being away from his daughter, who was only 4-months old when he left.
"I wasn\'t there for the first steps or her first words," he said. Even more difficult, when Copestick returned to Iraq following his rest and relaxation period, his daughter waved and said "goodbye". "That made it really hard to go back," he said.
Despite the hardships, Soldiers of the 536th gained from their experiences. Sgt. Brad Greene, a cook with the company, trained the Iraqi military on supply issues and went out on missions with Explosive Ordinance Disposal.
"It opened my eyes up to a lot of things, and I think I'm a better person for the experience," he said.
For all their knowledge gained, being back in the states make the little things matter even more.
"It feels good to be home; the first thing I want to do is take a shower," said 1st Lt. John Ciesco, a platoon leader.