‘Spartans’ return home after 15-months in Iraq

Story and photo Spc. Adrienne Killingswort
18th Military Police Brigade Public Affairs

MANNHEIM, Germany — Families, friends and Soldiers came together June 23 at the Freedom Fitness Facility in Bamberg to celebrate the return of the “Spartans” of the 793rd Military Police Battalion Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment from their 15-month tour in Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The rousing welcome from the crowd when the first Soldier entered the gymnasium was a fitting response to the long separation these friends and families have endured. The unit was one of the last to be assigned a 15-month tour to Iraq.

The Soldiers of HHD, 793rd MP Bn. deployed to Iraq in April 2008. Beginning in August 2008, units deployed to Iraq have been assigned 12-month tours. As the Army begins to pull its forces out of Iraq, the coming months will see the return of the last units assigned 15-month tours in Iraq.

Lt. Col. Michael Blahovec, 793rd MP Bn. commander, told the crowd that, without their support, the company’s tour in Iraq could not have been the success it was.
“The love and support of a family cannot be measured in terms of its impact on the welfare, morale and the abilities of Soldiers to endure what we’ve been through for the past 15 months,” he said.

Now that the troops have returned to their home station, they will undergo a 90-day re-integration period with their unit and their families. For many, it will be a chance to take a much-needed vacation and to catch up with loved ones.

For Nicole Idaliscalderon, 12, the first thing she planned on doing was catching up with her dad, Staff Sgt. Jose Calderoncruz, and “going home and telling him everything we’ve been doing since he’s been deployed,” she said.

The Soldiers of HHD, 793rd MP Bn. were deployed to Iraq to assist the Iraqi police with taking over security from American forces as the U.S. military begins to turn over responsibility to the Iraqis.

Both the Soldiers and their families worked hard to make the deployment a success for the unit.

“To the Soldiers on the floor, to the families in the stands … we have asked more of you than we had a right to,” Colonel Blahovec said. “Your sacrifices have been tremendous. Your performance and your service have been nothing short of honorable. I hope that as we stand here today, your hearts are overwhelmed with, really, just two emotions: joy and pride, because that’s what you deserve.”