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Family members and fellow soldiers welcome home the 181st Transportation Battalion Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment on Wednesday morning to Turley Barracks in Mannheim, Germany. About 50 soldiers returned from a yearlong deployment to Iraq.
Family members and fellow soldiers welcome home the 181st Transportation Battalion Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment on Wednesday morning to Turley Barracks in Mannheim, Germany. About 50 soldiers returned from a yearlong deployment to Iraq. (Steve Mraz / S&S)

MANNHEIM, Germany — Staff Sgt. Elisapesi Hunkin’s four children quietly sang along with the national anthem Wednesday morning at Turley Barracks while their mother and almost 50 fellow 181st Transportation Battalion soldiers saluted the U.S. flag.

Following a short speech by Lt. Col. Tony Chambers, 181st Transportation Battalion commander, Hunkin’s children welcomed home their mother after her nearly yearlong deployment to Iraq. The kids, ranging in age from 5 to 9, mobbed their mom with hugs.

“It’s so great just to be back with family,” Hunkin said. “After being downrange for almost a year, this is the moment you look forward to — coming home and seeing your family and friends.”

Forty-seven soldiers with the 181st Transportation Battalion Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment returned to Mannheim on Wednesday from a 12-month deployment to Iraq. The battalion, which at one point during its deployment was responsible for 1,800 soldiers, operated out of Logistics Support Area Anaconda. During its deployment, the 181st served as a security escort battalion that performed convoy logistics patrols every day, Chambers said.

“The mission there was definitely one of the most dangerous missions a unit could undertake being in Iraq,” he said.

That being said, all the soldiers from the Mannheim-based unit made it back safely, Chambers said. Chambers referred to his soldiers as heroes who set and maintained a high standard throughout their deployment.

Now that Hunkin, a veteran of three deployments, is home, her husband, Lepapa, said he will turn over the couple’s four kids to her.

“We’re going to have a little change of command ourselves and turn over the kids to her,” said Lepapa Hunkin with a chuckle. “I’ll be on R and R.”

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