Hundreds of friends and family members filled Nutter Field House Sept. 3 to welcome more than 150 Soldiers assigned to 77th Engineer Company, 94th Engineer Battalion as they returned from a nine-month deployment to Afghanistan.

During the ceremony, Fort Leonard Wood commanding general Maj. Gen. Leslie Smith urged the returning Soldiers to reflect on why they chose to serve in the military.

"Those families right there are why we continue to serve," Smith said. "That's what makes the 77th [En. Co.] the greatest company that has just come back from Afghanistan and it's what makes this Nation the greatest in the world."

Among the crowd were seven newborn babies who would meet their fathers for the very first time.

Krystal Hash, wife of Staff Sgt. Dustin Hash, said that she knew of 12 babies that were born during the company's deployment.

"It was kind of funny how it worked out," she said. "It seemed like every month we were welcoming another little one into the unit's family readiness group, almost around the same time of month, too."

Spc. Sean Hoisington welcomed not one, but two newborn babies following the company's welcome home ceremony.

"The deployment and the separation were challenging, but I think my Soldier's got a whole new challenge to face right here at home," said Amanda Hoisington. "The challenge of parenthood," she said.

Whatever challenges these Soldiers may face, Lt. Col. Samuel Volkman, 94th Engineer Battalion commander said he is glad to have them home.

"I couldn't think of a better way to start my week than by giving this special welcome home to the Outlaws," Volkman said. "They look marvelous and performed flawlessly while conducting their mission."

"They truly are the strength of the nation," he said.