The Utah National Guard's public affairs office announced Dec. 7, Pearl Harbor Day, that the largest portion of the approximately 475 soldiers of the 2nd Battalion 222nd Field Artillery of the Utah Army National Guard would be back home Thursday.
The group arrived, some in Cedar City, others in Salt Lake City, to the welcoming arms of their families.
Soldiers have been trickling back home since Nov. 18, but the largest group of the soldiers, comprising nearly half the unit, returned Thursday, according to the Utah National Guard's public affairs office.
Approximately 140 soldiers flew into the Cedar City airport at 7:50 a.m. via charter aircraft. Another 45 soldiers landed at Salt Lake City International Airport in several small groups via commercial tickets that same morning.
The Triple Deuce deployed to Iraq in June of this year for what was originally to be a yearlong deployment. However, a presidential order for U.S. troops to withdraw from Iraq ended the tour of duty nearly six months early.
However, while most of the 222nd is home, there are still members of it overseas.
"We're hoping for a Christmas miracle," said DonaMae Workman, leader of the Richfield Family Readiness Group. Her husband is among those still on their way home.
Prior to coming home, those soldiers still deployed will be flown to Camp Atterbury, Ind., where they will go through a demobilization procedure. Depending on how many soldiers are going through the same procedure, the process could take more than a week.
With the return of the soldiers, the Coins for a Camouflage Christmas effort has switched from a party for families to a welcome home for the soldiers.
"We're going to have a nice, formal dinner for the soldiers and their spouses," said Richard Barnett, Coins for a Camouflage Christmas organizer. He said the hope is to have all of the men of A Battery at the event, although there are several still in Kuwait.
"At least they're in Kuwait," Barnett said. During the dinner for the soldiers and their spouses, a carnival is scheduled for the children of the 222nd. This is the second time the coins effort has been hosted to help local Guard families.
"Six years ago when we did this, we had Santa bring a wrapped gift to all the kids from their dad," Barnett said. "This year we like to say that we worked it out with Santa to bring their dads home."
The mission of the Triple Deuce, which is comprised of units based in Cedar City, St. George, Beaver, Fillmore and Richfield, and commanded by Lt. Col. Brad Fuller, was to provide security for coalition forces in support of Operation New Dawn in Iraq.
This was the third deployment for the Triple Deuce since 2001, and its second to Iraq. The return of the Triple Deuce reduces the number of currently deployed Utah National Guardsmen to less than 100.