NAVAL AIR STATION OCEANA, VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (NNS) -- Seabees from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 24 based in Huntsville, Ala., returned to the United States via Naval Air Station Oceana Oct. 8 following a seven-month deployment to Iraq in support of the global war on terrorism.
The plane carrying NMCB 24 touched down amidst a storm in the late afternoon, but the Seabees on board didn't seem to mind, nor did family members waiting in the rain on the side of the runway since early morning.
"This is more [people] than we expected," said Lisa Stamps, NMCB 24's command ombudsman. "There is a large number of family and friends."
For most of the returning Seabees, Oceana is just a stop on their way home. After demobilizing in Norfolk, the battalion's nearly 400 personnel will return to their respective homes and civilian jobs in 26 states.
"I'll feel pretty good," said Construction Mechanic 3rd Class Jeff McDanal of returning home. "My mom, dad, brother and sister will be there. They couldn't make it here."
The mood was one of happiness and celebration as families reunited after nine months.
"I feel wonderful," said Builder 2nd Class Chris Benefield. "I'm glad to see my wife and kids and family."
NMCB 24 deployed from Huntsville after mobilizing in January and deploying in March to Iraq, where they successfully supported U.S. Marine and Army efforts in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
While in theater, NMCB 24 built forward operating bases in three locations. According to NMCB 24, with those completed, the newly-formed Iraqi Security Forces can move in after they complete training with U.S. Army and Marine Corps personnel and begin taking over responsibility for fighting insurgents.
"We did it in record time," said Cdr. Tim Simpson, commanding officer of NMCB 24, about building the bases. "We built 8.6 million dollars in construction - the most in theater," he added.
Other missions included rebuilding a large section of a major runway in support of the 2nd Marine Air Wing; installing a helicopter landing pad and military dining facility at Camp Blue Diamond near Ramadi, Iraq, in eastern Al Anbar able to withstand mortar fire; and specially training personnel who man heavily armed and armored Humvees that provide security to convoys carrying building materials, supplies and equipment.
They also escorted convoys through more than 20,000 miles on Iraq's roads without a single loss of life.
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