200 Guardsmen are returning to Arkansas from Iraq this week
Two hundred soldiers with the Arkansas Army National Guard's 39th Infantry Brigade Combat Team returned to the United States on Sunday from Iraq, arriving at Camp Shelby, Miss. for debriefing before returning home to Arkansas.
Among them were a dozen representatives from units in Berryville, Booneville, Lincoln and Rogers who serve with the 142nd Fires Brigade's 217th Brigade Support Battalion.
According to Capt. Chris Heathscott with the Arkansas National Guard, they are serving as the battalion's advance party in preparation for the upcoming return of the remainder of the unit.
He said the 217th served as a 'mayor's cell' for their military base in Tallil where they were responsible for the basic day-to-day operations on the base that supported troops from a variety of other units.
He said more soldier returns are scheduled each day throughout this week, noting that timelines "are extremely fluid."
He said the 39th is comprised of 46 organic units from 42 communities across Arkansas, and an additional 11 units to augment the brigade's mobilization.
He said families are asked to understand that their individual soldier is the best one to identify which unit he or she is returning with.
He said all soldiers were not necessarily deployed with their home units and each return listed is not necessarily the entire unit.
Col. Kendall W. Penn, in a letter to families of the soldiers, said once a soldier arrives at Camp Shelby, they will recover their personal effects and be assigned to barracks. They will immediately begin out-processing, which is expected to last four days.
On the fifth day, upon completion of demobilizaiton, soldiers will be provided transportation back to Arkansas, or they may leave Camp Shelby with their family.
Soldiers utilizing government bus transportation will be delivered to one of 20 armories where family members may pick them up.
The 39th was the first National Guard brigade combat team to deploy for a second tour of duty in Iraq. About half of the brigade had deployed on the first mobilization, which ran from October 2003 to April 2005.
It was initially called to active duty for second deployment on Oct. 1, 2007 and was federally mobilized the following January.