MANCHESTER, N.H. — As members of the 94th Military Police Company marched Tuesday afternoon into Wiggins Airways Inc., a crowd of 1,000 people drowned out the sound of bagpipes with cheers and applause.

It was an emotional homecoming for 170 soldiers. Since July 18, the unit has been in Baghdad, advising, training and assisting Iraqi police.

As people tried to spot their loved ones among the soldiers in camouflage military fatigues, signs with welcome-home messages lined the walls of the hangar near the Manchester Boston Regional Airport. Red, white and blue balloons dotted the room.

Excitement built in the crowd during the welcoming ceremony. Remarks by New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch and other officials were interrupted several times by cheers and applause.

The soldiers waited with military discipline until Capt. Benjamin Hall, commander of the 94th Military Police Company, announced their dismissal. Soldiers turned to hug each other before breaking into the audience to find their families.

“It is very good to be home. It’s a great feeling,” 1st Lt. Eric Giles of Franklin said after greeting his mother, Tebby Giles.

“I could hardly wait for him to be home,” she said, beaming.

Giles was the platoon leader for the Saco-based detachment, which has about 40 soldiers from Maine. He said he was proud that after nearly a year in Baghdad, the whole company returned home safely.

The fact that there were no casualties while the unit was deployed comforted many families.

Lynn Bonsey of Bucksport said she was “so relieved” to see her son, Spc. Ryan Campbell, after his first deployment.

“It’s been hard for me as a teacher (of social studies) to talk to my students of current events,” said Bonsey. “But I’m so proud of him.”

The 94th Military Police Company deployed in May 2010. Much of its work was designed to set up Iraq for a reduction in U.S. forces, including the establishment of the country’s first patrol police SWAT team.

It was the second deployment for many members of the company, which was one of the first reserve units to deploy after the initial invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003. During that deployment, the company spent 22 months in Iraq — reportedly the longest reserve deployment since World War II.

Sgt. Justin Titcomb of Wells went with the 94th Military Police Company in 2003. He was awarded a Purple Heart for being injured when a roadside bomb hit his convoy. That didn’t stop the Wells police officer from returning to Iraq with his fellow troops.

The unit was in Fort Dix, N.J., when it received news of Osama bin Laden’s death late Sunday night. The troops celebrated the U.S. victory, but Titcomb said it doesn’t mean the conflict is over.

“Just because he’s dead doesn’t mean it’s any easier off. He’s just one person, and there are always others willing to step up. We’ll have to wait and see,” he said.

His wife, Joana, was excited for him to return home. The couple will celebrate their second anniversary in June.

“It’s wonderful” to have him home in time to celebrate, she said. “Our first anniversary, he was only home a couple days on leave.”

The couple embraced as soon as the soldiers were dismissed. With his wife still in his arms, Titcomb said this past year was easier than his previous deployment.

Consistent Internet access allowed Titcomb to video chat with his family regularly via Skype. That was better than the letters and intermittent phone calls during his last deployment.

His parents, Hope and Arthur Titcomb, said they even brought their laptop to the dinner table at Thanksgiving so their son could share in the festivities.

Communication aside, Titcomb said operations in Iraq are winding down. He spent much of the time training police forces.

“We’re turning more responsibility over to the Iraqis. We don’t take a role in missions, we advise them. We’re not kicking down doors anymore, they are,” he said.

Staff Writer Emma Bouthillette can be contacted at 791-6325 or at:

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