GULFPORT -- Thursday's homecoming meant something different to each of the 164 Seabees of Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 74, who returned home Thursday after a six-month deployment to Europe and Africa.
Lt. Josh Sharp met his newborn for the first time. Cmdr. David McAlister arrived home just a few weeks before becoming a parent for the first time. And at least one young Seabee popped the question as soon as he stepped off the big white bus and onto Dong Xoai Avenue on the Naval Construction Battalion Center. Most everyone had friends or family awaiting them with signs painted, cameras clicking and arms wide open.
"It's always exciting to come in and see the support and the signs and the families when you show up for homecoming," McAlister said. "You really can't beat a homecoming from deployment."
Sharp, with 2½-month-old Levi Michael cradled in one arm, and wife Lauren wrapped in the other, was proud to introduce his family after most of the homecoming chaos had died down.
"I couldn't wait to get here," he said. "I've been waiting for this for months."
Although deployed, Sharp still was a part of his son's birth.
"We were able to Skype, thankfully," he said. "(I was able to be a part of his birth) as much as possible."
McAlister was excited to get home with time to spare.
"My wife is due next month, so a couple more weeks until I have my first child," he said. "For me personally, we had a lot of personnel who had babies during the deployment. I'm fortunate enough to be here for when my child comes.
But the Fearless 74's homecoming was bittersweet. Glad to be stateside, their return also marks the end of NMCB 74. Originally commissioned April 28, 1943, it was deactivated Oct. 31, 1945, then recommissioned Dec. 6, 1966. It will once again be decommissioned July 25 after more than 70 years of service.
"It's a little sad, as well, to come home, just knowing it's the last deployment," McAlister said. "It's also a good opportunity to close this chapter of our history and with us decommissioning next month, just an opportunity for us to go out with a bang."
During its deployment, the Fearless 74 helped set initial conditions for the Argis Ashore Missile Defense Program in Romania and built facilities and improved infrastructure in Rota, Spain, for the arrival of the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Ross, among other projects at 29 locations in 22 countries.
NMCB 74's deployment had officially ended Tuesday with a transfer-of-authority ceremony to NMCB 133, also from Gulfport, at Camp Mitchell aboard Naval Station Rota, Spain.