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NEWS | Dec. 27, 2010

Christmas comes early for Guardsmen, families

By Courtesy Story

NEW ORLEANS - All members of the Louisiana National Guard’s 256th Infantry Brigade Combat Team are finally home after serving a year-long deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, returning throughout the first three weeks of December.

“These Soldiers are truly great Americans,” said Army Maj. Gen. Bennett C. Landreneau, the adjutant general of the Louisiana National Guard. “These heroes stepped up to our nation’s call to protect our freedoms, and it is great to welcome them home.”

Approximately 3,000 Guardsmen, assigned to different units within the 256th, received smiles, hugs and cheers as they unloaded buses at their unit armories across Louisiana.

“It really feels great to be home,” Army Spc. Dex Legendre said.  “The timing of our return will make this a very special holiday season.”

In January, the 256th IBCT mobilized and deployed approximately 3,000 troops to Iraq as they began their second tour in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

These Soldiers completed demobilization training in Camp Shelby, Miss., before returning to Louisiana.

“We had a multitude of missions, and the Soldiers did an outstanding job,” said Army Col. Jonathan Ball, the 256th commander. “I have a lot of pride in their performance.”

The 256th's Soldiers were spread throughout Iraq conducting various missions to include: base defense and entry control point operations, convoy security, personal security, garrison command, special operation missions and unmanned aerial flight operations. 

Louisiana Guardsmen routinely interacted with personnel from the local Iraqi military, U.S. Embassy and United Nations within the International Zone, formerly known as the Green Zone.

“Morale stayed high the whole time, and they did an outstanding job,” said Army Command Sgt. Maj. Kenneth Wagner, the 256th senior enlisted advisor. “I was never more proud to be their sergeant major.”

During this 2010 deployment, they helped set the conditions for the responsible withdrawal of U.S. Armed Forces and equipment as they transitioned to Operation New Dawn in September 2010.