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Nancy Shadle, left, kisses her husband, Sgt. Michael Shadle, during a return ceremony Friday at Warner Barracks in Bamberg, Germany. Shadle deployed to Iraq with the 7th Corps Support Group advance party exactly one year earlier.
Nancy Shadle, left, kisses her husband, Sgt. Michael Shadle, during a return ceremony Friday at Warner Barracks in Bamberg, Germany. Shadle deployed to Iraq with the 7th Corps Support Group advance party exactly one year earlier. (Rick Emert / S&S)
Nancy Shadle, left, kisses her husband, Sgt. Michael Shadle, during a return ceremony Friday at Warner Barracks in Bamberg, Germany. Shadle deployed to Iraq with the 7th Corps Support Group advance party exactly one year earlier.
Nancy Shadle, left, kisses her husband, Sgt. Michael Shadle, during a return ceremony Friday at Warner Barracks in Bamberg, Germany. Shadle deployed to Iraq with the 7th Corps Support Group advance party exactly one year earlier. (Rick Emert / S&S)
A banner hung at the site of the 7th Corps Support Group’s first unit homecoming says it all: "Happiness is Iraq in the Rearview mirror."
A banner hung at the site of the 7th Corps Support Group’s first unit homecoming says it all: "Happiness is Iraq in the Rearview mirror." (Rick Emert / S&S)

BAMBERG, Germany — It was an 18 million-mile trip, but some soldiers of the 7th Corps Support Group have finally reached the end of the road.

Fifty-seven 7th Corps Support Group soldiers returned to Warner Barracks in Bamberg on Friday afternoon as their families and friends anxiously waited in the Roller Realm skating rink.

About 1,500 more 7th Corps Support Groups will return home probably by the end of March to home stations in Grafenwöhr, Vilseck, Illesheim and Giebelstadt, according to Maj. David Allen, rear detachment commander for the group.

“The troops will be returning by companies,” Allen said. “The soldiers who returned today are all from [Headquarters and Headquarters Company].”

The troops originally were to return Tuesday, but a string of delays, including transportation problems, kept pushing the date back, Allen said.

While deployed to Iraq, the 7th CSG supported the 3rd Corps Support Command in driving 18 million miles of day- and night-convoy operations. The command delivered 1.1 million gallons of fuel, 1 million gallons of water and 3 million cases of Meals, Ready to Eat to soldiers in Iraq.

The only delivery the families of the soldiers cared about, however, was the short march the unit made from its unit headquarters to the skating rink on Friday.

“It’s been a long, extremely long, year,” said Nancy Shadle, whose husband, Sgt. Michael Shadle, deployed with the advance party Feb. 20, 2003. “I flew back to the States twice, and while I was here, I used the gym a lot.”

Shadle said the communication lines to her husband in Iraq were good, but not too reliable.

“When the Internet was up, it was great,” she said. “When the phone calls didn’t get disconnected, those were great.”

The first thing her husband, Michael, planned to do was call his daughter in the States, she said.

“Tomorrow [Saturday] is her birthday, and she said all she wants is for her daddy to get home from Iraq and call her,” Nancy Shadle said. “He’ll be calling her tonight.”

Jannine MacKay had 2-year-old Starla to help her keep her mind off of the deployment.

“It was easier having her here,” MacKay said, but added she spent some time in the States with family. “We went for a month during Christmas. I couldn’t handle the holidays alone.”

And her husband, Spc. Douglas MacKay, will have some celebrating to do.

“I know he’ll want to make some phone calls, but then he has some cake and Christmas presents to open,” she said. “I saved him [candy] from last Easter, too, but he may not want to eat that.”

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