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Madison — The last Wisconsin National Guard Soldiers have left Iraq and are returning to West Bend Saturday having successfully completed their tour of duty in support of Operation New Dawn - formerly Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“On behalf of Wisconsin, I want to thank these and all our National Guard Soldiers for their service,” said Governor Walker.  “These soldiers and their families have made great sacrifices for the good of our nation and state.  We’re grateful that these citizen-soldiers are able to return to their loved ones for the holidays.”

Gov. Scott Walker, senior Wisconsin National Guard leaders and the 132nd Army Band will join family and friends to welcome home approximately 30 Soldiers of the 2nd Battalion, 135th General Aviation Support Battalion during a ceremony at the West Bend armory, 125 Chopper Drive, West Bend, Wis., at approximately 10 a.m.

The 2nd Battalion  - a UH-60 Black Hawk unit - reported for active duty in November 2010.  Following a Nov. 29 sendoff ceremony, the Soldiers departed for mobilization training at Fort Hood, Texas.  They arrived in Iraq in early

2011 and provided medevac support for northern Iraq alongside National Guardsmen from multiple states.

The Soldiers will be released to their families following the ceremony, having already completed demobilization processing at Fort Dix, N.J.

Although the West-Bend service members are the state's last to serve in Iraq, nearly 10,000 Soldiers and Airmen have deployed in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom and New Dawn. Since 2003, Wisconsin's Citizen-Soldiers and Citizen-Airmen have conducted numerous missions in Iraq - including medevac transport, route clearance, detainee operations, base defense, close air support for ground operations and in-flight refueling missions. In the eight years since operations began in Iraq, nine Wisconsin Guard members made the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, every unit in the Wisconsin Guard has deployed forces in support of the global war on terror, many more than once. While operations in Iraq are drawing to a close, the Wisconsin National Guard still has more than 350 Soldiers and Airmen on active duty, including approximately 60 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and about 180 heading to Kosovo for the NATO-led peace keeping mission there.

Note to Editors and News Directors:  Media are invited to cover the brief welcome home ceremony of the 2-135th Aviation Regiment on Saturday, Nov. 19.

The ceremony will take place at the West Bend Armory, 125 Chopper Drive, West Bend, Wis.  PLEASE NOTE: The welcome ceremony will be held at the armory, not the flight facility where the most recent sendoff ceremonies have taken place. The soldiers are scheduled to arrive at approximately 10 a.m.

This event is not intended for the general public, so we would appreciate any advance news stories not imply that the general public is invited.

BACKGROUND:  The approximately 30 Soldiers come from three West Bend-based units - Detachment 1, Company C; Detachment 2, Company D; and Detachment 2, Company E, all of 2nd Battalion, 135th Aviation Regiment. The mobilizing units were until recently part of the West Bend-based 832nd Medical Company, a Wisconsin Army National Guard air ambulance unit boasting 100 members and nine helicopters. In February, the 832nd Medical Company reorganized into seven separate elements as part of the Army's realignment of aviation units including creating general support aviation battalions comprised of medical, utility, cargo, maintenance, general support and forward support companies.

The 2/135th is based out of the Colorado Army National Guard and has assets in Nebraska, Louisiana, Kansas, California and Wisconsin. Detachment 1, Company C, is a subordinate unit to a Nebraska Army National Guard air ambulance company. Detachment 2, Company D is part of a maintenance company in Colorado, and Detachment 2, Company E is part of a forward support company also in Colorado. For this deployment, the Wisconsin aviation Soldiers will marry up with their parent units.