Brigade to return this weekend

Posted: Thursday, November 23, 2006

ANCHORAGE - The 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team is scheduled to start returning from Iraq this week.

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The brigade had been slated to return to Alaska this summer, but found out just days before leaving Iraq that the tour had been extended by four months. A few hundred soldiers had already returned to Alaska when word came that many would have to return to Iraq.

The unit's 3,800 members are scheduled to return in waves starting Saturday, military officials said, after leaving for Iraq in the fall of 2005.

U.S. Army Alaska spokesman Major Kirk Gohlke said all the troops are scheduled to be home by December 5.

Gohlke says most will be flying into Fairbanks, where the brigade is based at Fort Wainwright. About 200 soldiers with the 4th Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment of the brigade will return to Fort Richardson in Anchorage.

The 172nd left for Iraq in what was the largest combat deployment of Alaska-based troops since the Vietnam War. The brigade served in cities across northern and western Iraq. Members worked with Iraqi army and police forces, training them and conducting searches and patrols.

After the brigade began returning home in July, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld approved a 120-day extension of the 172nd so it could relocate to Baghdad and help quell sectarian violence there.

About 300 soldiers who had already returned to Alaska were sent back to Iraq after the extension. Twenty-six brigade soldiers died during the deployment, seven of them during the extension.

Army officials are planning a Fairbanks ceremony Dec. 12 to honor the 172nd soldiers who lost their lives in Iraq. An official welcome home ceremony is slated for the same day.

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