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(See photos of the 3rd COSCOM's homecoming at end of story.)

WIESBADEN, Germany — Standing in formation, the 226 combat veterans looked as crisp and clean as the venue where they were assembled.

When the 3rd Corps Support Command and other Wiesbaden-area units left for Iraq in October 2005, the brand spanking new fitness center on Wiesbaden Army Airfield was an amalgamation of steel and stone. But now it’s done, and the same is sure true for the command’s yearlong tour in Iraq.

“We are here today to thank these soldiers for their service to our country and to recognize their patriotism, commitment to excellence, personal courage and selfless service to our nation,” Brig. Gen. Michael Lally, the 3rd COSCOM commander, said Friday at the formal welcome-home ceremony.

“Many of you have deployed twice and possibly three times in recent years,” Lally said. “I want to personally thank you for a job well done.”

Prior to his address, the 3rd COSCOM accepted the Meritorious Unit Commendation for its tour, which ended Sept. 19. About 30 civilians, including many spouses, were also honored for their efforts back home during the deployment.

The 11 a.m. ceremony was fairly brief. What followed were several hours of levity for soldiers and families. Convened at the nearby old gym, the party featured a variety of activities, from sumo wrestling and mechanical bull riding to kiddie carousel rides and face-painting. There was an abundance of music, food and drink.

“Even though we had a lot of bonding in Iraq, we can always bond more,” Spc. Shawn Ward said before heading to the festivities.

During its tour, 3rd COSCOM led nine brigades, 27 battalions and 128 company-size units in Iraq and Kuwait, totaling about 24,000 soldiers.

On Friday, the headquarters company stood with several other returning units from the community. In addition to the headquarters staff, the day of recognition included: the 19th Support Center; the 27th Transportation Battalion (Movement Control); the 55th Personnel Services Battalion; and the 501st Military Intelligence Battalion.

Ward, 20, said the deployment allowed him to do “a lot of soul-searching,” though it sounded as if, at least for the night, his search might involve a quest of a different sort.

“Girls still like a guy in a uniform,” he said with a wide grin.

Standing next to the bachelor was his buddy, Spc. Michael O’Reilly. O’Reilly, whose wife, Stacy, is expecting their first child, just looked happy as heck to be home.

The 22-year-old said his experiences in Iraq made him “realize how good I had it back home.”

Photo gallery: 3rd COSCOM returns homePhotos by Michael Abrams, Stars and Stripes

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