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First Idaho soldiers arrive in Kuwait

by Brian Walker
| November 16, 2010 8:00 PM

The first wave ofIdaho Army National Guard soldiers being deployed to Iraq arrived in Kuwait on Monday.

About 2,700 soldiers of the 116th Cavalry Brigade Combat Team, including 170 from North Idaho, are being transported from Camp Shelby, Miss., to Kuwait this week as part of a four-part sendoff.

The soldiers, who have been training in Mississippi for nearly two months, will arrive in Iraq later this month in support of Operation New Dawn.

"The one-year tour of duty includes ... 10 months of boots on the ground in Iraq," said Col. Tim Marsano, Idaho National Guard spokesman.

The 116th is comprised of 1,500 from Idaho, 600 from Montana and 600 from Oregon. The unit was mobilized in September.

Soldiers are departing from Gulfport, Miss., through Thursday. While in Kuwait, soldiers will perform final training before crossing into Iraq.

"They will be based at various locations throughout (Iraq)," Marsano said. "Their mission includes convoy security, military installation security and providing logistical support for military and diplomatic personnel in Iraq."

The first wave of soldiers left Gulfport on Sunday in two chartered planes.

On hand to wish them farewell were: Gov. Butch Otter; Maj. Gen. Gary Sayler, the National Guard's commanding general; Brig. Gen. Alan Gayhart, the Guard's commander; and Col. Guy Thomas, 116th CBCT commander. Thomas leaves for Kuwait later this week.

The planes refuel in Bangor, Maine, and Leipzig, Germany, prior to landing in Kuwait.

Otter learned about the training the soldiers went through at Camp Shelby and drove a mine-resistant ambush protected vehicle that will be used to provide convoy security in Iraq.

"It's obvious to me that they're ready to go and carry out their mission," Otter said.

He said he hopes to travel to Iraq to visit the troops in the next 10 months.

Thomas said the brigade is well-prepared to serve in Iraq.

"We feel good about the training we've had (in Mississippi), which includes the most current tactics, techniques and procedures," he said.

Some of the soldiers were also deployed to Iraq in 2005.

The 116th will be among about 50,000 U.S. troops in Iraq in support of Operation New Dawn that started Sept. 1. Combat-related missions formerly performed by coalition forces are now undertaken by the Iraqi military.

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