At 2am the first soldiers from 24 Commando Engineer Regiment finally stepped into the hanger, to be met by an array of smiling pyjama-clad children, and excitable partners.
The troops had originally been due to arrive back at 4pm on Thursday — but flight delays meant both the soldiers and families at home had endured a long day of waiting.
Sam Hailstone, and her two children Jess, 11, one-year-old Ella were waiting for dad and husband Staff Sergeant Paddy Hailstone to arrive.
Sam said: "It's been a long time away from home. I'm excited and nervous, and I'm trying not to get emotional but I might."
Jess, who is a pupil at Orchard Vale School in Barnstaple said: "I'm really excited."
Annabel Weeden, was waiting for her husband CO of 24 Cdo Engrs, Lt Col Jim Weeden to arrive, with the couple's two girls Molly and Hannah— who had both got up in their pyjamas to meet their dad.
Annabel said: "I'm really excited and just relieved he is home now. The girls were so excited, although Molly has to be up early to do her school assembly."
Lt Col Weeden said: "It's been a long time away and we've been hugely lucky to all be coming back. But I still have one group out there and I won't breathe a sigh of relief until they're all back."
He added: "It's wonderful to see my family again, and I can't believe how much the girls have grown."