Well-wishers file into the conference room. There's cake on the table and a sign on the wall that says "Welcome home, Valerie."

Co-workers celebrated Valerie Robinson's return from Iraq with a reception Thursday afternoon at the Aviation and Missile Research Development and Engineering Center. The Navy reservist was deployed nearly a year in Al Asad, Iraq, with her unit, Navy Military Construction Battalion 24 out of Huntsville.

"The deployment was a great learning experience for me since it was my first one," said Robinson, a logistics analyst in the Product Directorate for Systems Sustainment Management, an element of AMCOM's Integrated Materiel Management Center. "I met a lot of people, learned a lot of things. It certainly makes you appreciate the United States and what we have here."

The petty officer first class deployed in December 2008 for the first time in her 17 years as a reservist. All 600 members of her battalion returned safely in October.

Robinson is a personnel specialist for the battalion, which provided construction and repairs for the Iraqi people. Her logistics experience helped, she said.

She has worked in the product directorate as a logistics analyst for five years.

"It's good to have you back," said Lt. Col. John Shanklin, the product director for systems sustainment management. He has about 160 employees.
Robinson's supervisor, Leo Manning, chief of sustainment for the product directorate, also welcomed her during the reception.

"I'm an ex-sergeant major (in the Army)," Manning said. "I just feel like she served her country. Now it's time for her country to serve her. That's why I wanted to bring her back. She deserves that. I'm retired military, I definitely can equate to what she's done."