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Ceremony marks end of 116th's Iraq mission

It's all over but the trip home for the Idaho National Guard's 116th Brigade Combat Team.

The 116th, which includes about 1,800 Idahoans as well as troops from Oregon, Montana, Utah, North Dakota, New Jersey and Maryland, is finishing an 18-month deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

On Monday, the 116th turned over duties to 1st Brigade Combat Team of the 101st Airborne Division during a ceremony at Forward Operating Base Warrior at the Kirkuk Regional Air Base.

Some of the 116th's soldiers have already flown to Kuwait, Fort Lewis, Wash., or home to Idaho. All the members of the 116th are expected to be home by Thanksgiving.

The 116th completed a mission in north-central Iraq that included training Iraqi security forces, rebuilding infrastructure, promoting economic growth, aiding the Iraqi government and working on communications .

"We bid farewell to the many Iraqi friends we have made," Brig. Gen. Alan Gayhart, the 116th's commander, said in the change-of-command ceremony Monday.

"It's now time for us to make the long journey home to our loved ones," he said. "Remember that you are the finest our nation has to offer, making our nation safe by fighting terrorism and helping the citizens of Iraq to be free and safe within their own country."

— Roger Phillips, Statesman staff

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