COB BASRA, Iraq - For the dozens of Soldiers of Division Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 1st Infantry Division, selected to redeploy early from Iraq the opinion on their return to the United States after seven months in Iraq was almost unanimous.

"Fabulous, fabulous, fabulous," said 1st Lt. Trudy Powelson, a Seymour, Wis., native.

"Awesome," said Staff Sgt. Melissa Applebee, an Abilene, Kan., resident.

"I can't wait, because the first thing I'm going to do is grab my little girl and not let her go," said Evelyn Hardy, a Los Angeles native.

"I'm pretty excited, looking forward to it," said Sgt. Joshua Read, a Lincoln, Ill., native.

These Soldiers returned to Fort Riley on Aug. 13 as part of the Responsible Drawdown of Forces from Iraq.

Before departing Iraq, they were honored for their service during an awards ceremony after having worked on COB Basra since the 1st Inf. Div. took control of United States Division-South in February.

The ceremony was presided over by Maj. Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, the 1st Inf. Div. and United States Division-South commanding general. Before the awards were presented he commended the Soldiers for a job well done in Iraq, from organizing the unit to success in operations to helping the Iraqi forces secure the national elections last March.

"It's no small challenge to get the unit from arrival, transition of authority to 30 days later, the historic elections," Brooks said. "Maintaining a stable environment in southern Iraq, each one of you contributed in your own way, and every person's contributions counted."

First Sgt. Brian Safewright, the senior noncommissioned officer of Operations Company, DHHB, said the advise and assist mission continues for the majority of the division headquarters which will remain in Basra until this winter.

"I don't see it changing a whole lot," said Safewright, a Draper, Va., native. "We have to sit back and watch to see how the Iraqis deal with the changeover, see if they can take hold of the responsibility of leading their own country. We've just got to help them in any way we can."

Brooks said even though the Soldiers' mission in Iraq is complete, they have work ahead of them, starting with reintegration into Fort Riley.

"When you get back, take your time," Brooks said. "Be patient with yourself, be patient with those around you and those that love you and those you care about, and get reconnected and reintegrated with that part of the world."