FARGO, N.D. - About 70 Soldiers from the <a href="http://www.ndguard.ngb.army.mil">North Dakota Army National Guard</a> are on U.S. soil this afternoon after having spent nearly a year in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Grand Forks-based 1st Battalion, 188th Air Defense Artillery Regiment mobilized in three groups in November 2009.

It was a first-of-its-kind mission for two of the groups, which operated the AN/MPQ-64 Sentinel Radar for the first time in a combat zone - one group of about 25 in Afghanistan and one group of eight in Iraq. The Sentinel can alert short-range air-defense weapons to sites of hostile targets. The third group of about 40 Soldiers used the Rapid Aerostat Initial Deployment, or RAID, system in Afghanistan. It was the fourth such mission for the 1-188th, and thus dubbed RAID IV. The RAID tower system incorporates sensor technology to protect forward operating bases.

"For the past year, these Soldiers have been saving lives of U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan and Iraq," said Maj. Gen. David Sprynczynatyk, North Dakota adjutant general. "In the meantime, their families have been stepping up to new roles in their absence. Their service, both our Soldiers and their families, has benefited the U.S. and our allies, and we owe them our sincerest thanks."

Sprynczynatyk and other senior leaders met the returning Soldiers to thank them for their service as they deplaned in Fort Hood, Texas.

Capt. Walyn S. Vannurden, of Cavalier, N.D., commanded both Afghanistan groups and 1st Sgt. Gregory P. Brockberg, of Moorhead, Minn., was the senior enlisted Soldier there. Sgt. 1st Class Michael Kraft, of Devils Lake, N.D., served as the senior leader in Iraq. Their Soldiers belong to units in Grand Forks, as well as Fargo and Bismarck, but hail from 31 communities across North Dakota and into Minnesota.

The Soldiers will conduct demobilization processes at Fort Hood with a team of North Dakota Guardsmen and licensed social workers. They're expected back in North Dakota within a week, and the Guard's Public Affairs Office will publish arrival times as soon as they're finalized. A smaller, advance group of Soldiers returned home ahead of the main group, arriving in North Dakota late last month.

With the groups' return to the U.S., the number of North Dakota Guardsmen serving overseas has reached a low that has not been seen since shortly after the 2001 terrorist attacks. About a dozen Soldiers and Airmen remain deployed in locations across the globe.
<i>Since the 2001 terrorist attacks on America, the North Dakota National Guard has mobilized more than 3,500 Soldiers and more than 1,800 Airmen in support of the Global War on Terrorism. Currently, fewer than 20 North Dakota Guardsmen are serving overseas while more than 4,000 remain in the state for emergency response and national defense. For every 10,000 citizens in North Dakota, 65 serve in the North Dakota National Guard, a rate that's more than four times the national average.

High-resolution photos of the Soldiers arriving in Fort Hood, Texas, will be posted to Flickr: www.flickr.com/photos/ndguard.

<a href="http://www.talkingwithheroes.com/">Talking with Heroes </a>with Bob Calvert interviewed Soldiers with the 1st Battalion, 188th Air Defense Artillery Regiment while they were serving in Afghanistan and Iraq. Watch the videos on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/user/NDNationalGuard#grid/user/8441F8A5943730A4.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16