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Photo Gallery | 185th returns to Camp Robinson from Iraq

Story and photos by Lt. Col. Keith Moore, Arkansas National Guard State Public Affairs Office

GULFPORT, Miss. – Thirty-one Arkansas National Guardsmen from the 77th Theater Aviation Brigade’s 1st Battalion, 185th Aviation Regiment returned to the United States here late Tuesday night after completing a year-long deployment to Iraq.

These Soldiers are the first wave of over 350 Arkansas Guards members from four different units returning home in the coming weeks, having completed rotations in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kosovo. Tuesday’s returning Soldiers initially departed the state for training on Dec. 2, 2010, prior to heading overseas for a helicopter flight operations mission at Camps Stryker and Taji, Iraq.

The troops were a small contingent that returned with elements of the Georgia and Mississippi National Guard.  Each of the returning Soldiers were greeted by members of the command group of the Arkansas National Guard as they first set foot on U.S. soil.

"Welcome Home! Great Job!  And, thanks for your service and sacrifice," said Maj. Gen. William Wofford, adjutant general of the Arkansas National Guard, as he shook hands with each Soldier stepping off of the plane. 

Approximately 10 families made the drive from central Arkansas to greet their Soldiers and celebrate the completion of another long deployment.  One wife of a Soldier from Cabot kept secret her plan to greet her husband and surprised him at the reception center.

"He has no idea," said Tina Johnson.  "I worked with a couple of other wives and came down to surprise him.  It has been so difficult to keep the secret."

Of course, Sgt. Jeremiah Johnson, a maintenance technical inspector with the Camp Robinson based aviation unit, was elated to see his wife behind a large 'Welcome Home' banner.

The remaining 110 members of the 185th are scheduled to return to the U.S. over the course of the next two weeks, with follow-on return ceremonies pending here at home.  The 185th’s Soldiers will remain in Mississippi for a few days of post-mobilization out-processing at the Camp Shelby Maneuver Training Center near Hattiesburg. 

In the coming weeks, the Arkansas National Guard anticipates the return of 25 with the 449th Aviation Intermediate Maintenance Company from Kosovo; 125 with the Headquarters and Headquarters Company of the 77th Aviation Brigade from Iraq; and 60 with the state’s second Agriculture Development Team from Afghanistan.  With these scheduled returns, all of the Arkansas National Guard’s units are anticipated to be home for Christmas.

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