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155th eyes Jan. return from Iraq

Mississippi Army National Guard officials say an advancedcontingent of the 155th Brigade Combat Team may come home as soonas December, but it will likely be January before most soldiers’boots touch American soil.

The 155th BCT arrived in Iraq in January after training at CampShelby since August 2004. The more than 3,500 members of the teamare primarily from Mississippi, with units from Brookhaven,Monticello, McComb, Natchez, Crystal Springs, Tylertown andPrentiss in the local area.

Lt. Col. Tim Powell, public relations officer for the state’sANG, said firm decisions have not been made and some decisions canchange before being implemented.

“Everything is so fluid,” he said. “I do know they plan onsending an advance party back to Camp Shelby to help prepare forthe main body.”

The advance party, which will likely consist of 50 to 60soldiers, is expected to return sometime in December, Powell said.The remaining members of the 155th BCT will begin filtering inafter the arrival of the advance party.

“We expect the entire brigade in by the end of January,” Powellsaid.

However, the team will not return as a whole. Another BCT iscurrently training at Camp Shelby for Middle Eastern deployment,meaning space at the base is limited.

Individual elements of the 155th BCT, or even partial units,will be returning home as they are relieved to prevent Camp Shelbyfrom becoming overtaxed, he said.

“They’re coming home as they are relieved in-country,” Powellsaid. “They won’t stay and wait for the rest of the unit. As we getcloser to their return, I can pass more specific information.”

Once soldiers are at Camp Shelby they will remain at the basefor five to seven days before being released to their homearmories, he said.

Thirteen members of the 155th BCT have been killed in militaryoperations in Iraq. The return of the 155th BCT severely reducesthe number of Mississippi soldiers serving in Iraq, Powellsaid.

Forty-eight members of the 148th Transportation Battalion’scommand element, based in Laurel, are still in Iraq and numerousAir National Guard soldiers continue to rotate in and out of thecountry.