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Published December 24 2008

About 200 ND guardsmen coming home for holidays

The families of more than 200 North Dakota Army and Air National Guard soldiers and airmen will get a welcome Christmas present, if only a bit delayed.

About 182 soldiers with the Fargo-based 191st Military Police Company and about 30 Air Guard members from Fargo’s 119th Wing will return from serving in Iraq, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates shortly after Jan. 1, Gov. John Hoeven and Maj. Gen. David Sprynczynatyk said Tuesday.

“When we get to announce they’re coming home, that’s good duty,” Gov. John Hoeven told a theater full of soldiers, airmen and family members at the Fargo Armed Forces Reserve Center.

“The Christmas present is we’ll have them back very, very soon,” Hoeven said.

The 191st served in a Baghdad suburb called Sadr City, training Iraqi police and Sons of Iraq, an American-backed militia. The 191st also conducted extensive security operations, Sprynczynatyk said.

The general said the 191st will leave Iraq sometime after Jan. 1 and fly to Fort Lewis, Wash., to be demobilized. He said about 30 North Dakota Guard members will aid in their processing. All of the troops should be home by mid-January, he said.

“The best Christmas we’ve had,” said Gary Jordheim of Thompson, N.D., whose son Michael Thompson is a specialist with the 191st.

Erica Manor said she and her daughters, Sheryl, 7, and Jeana, 6, will leave their Christmas tree up for her husband, Spc. Glenn Manor.

“We’re doing Christmas after he comes,” Manor said.

The Air Guard troops were at bases in Iraq, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, Sprynczynatyk said.

They will also return after Jan. 1, flying first to Baltimore, Md., and then to Fargo, said Jody Harms, the wing’s family program coordinator.

“When they get home, they’re yours,” Sprynczynatyk told their families.

The general said the 191st MP Company “made a huge difference” in the Sadr City area as part of the surge of troops sent to stabilize Iraq. He said there was a 90 percent decline in incidents and hostilities where they worked.

“You can be extra proud of your soldiers and airmen,” Sprynczynatyk said.

Rob Keller, the state family program coordinator, said flight times are not known, but that families will be informed when their loved ones return to the U.S. and on what flights they will return to the state.

Angie Peterson, family readiness group leader for the 191st, said the families are excited to get their loved ones back.

She’s already warned her husband, Sgt. Josh Peterson, about the weather.

“He’s got some snow to shovel,” Peterson said. “I did tell him to enjoy his last couple weeks in the desert, because he’s going to come back to this.”

In addition to Fargo, the 191st has units in Bismarck and Mayville.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583