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Rochester, MN (KROC-AM News) - Almost 700 members of the Minnesota National Guard are returning home this week.

About 100 soldiers with the St. Paul-based 34th Expeditionary Combat Aviation Brigade were reunited with loved ones on Monday and the others will be returning to Minnesota in groups over the next few days. They've spent the past year away from home and most of that time was spent in Iraq in support of Operation Spartan Shield and Operation Inherent Resolve.

“Task Force Red Devils operated in a volatile environment at the beginning of the deployment,” said Col. Gregory Fix, the brigade commander. “Our Soldiers and Airmen continued supporting the mission through injury and loss of life, and transitioning through uncertainties to include COVID-19. And they always accomplished the mission,” said Fix.

The Minnesota soldiers were part of a multi-state deployment of the National Guard that was given the mission of assisting Iraqi Security Forces battling the Islamic State Group while also completing the closing of a coalition base called Camp Taji and returning it to the Iraqi government. According to the news release announcing the return of the soldiers, the base was targeted in March for major rocket attacks over two days and a soldier serving under the Minnesota unit's command was killed. Specialist Juan Mendez Covarrubias was from Hanford California and was assigned to a unit based at Fort Hood.

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