Another week, then it's goodbye.

Idaho troops spend final days with families before heading to Iraq.


Time to Say Farewell, For Now

On Friday, Sept. 10, some 1,500 Idaho citizen soldiers will wrap up two weeks of training at Boise's Gowen Field and head home for seven days. It'll be time for them to say goodbye to family and friends.

Sometime on Friday, Sept. 17, Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter will officially sign over control of the Army National Guard's 116th Cavalry Brigade Combat Team to the Pentagon. In addition to the 1,500 Idahoans, the 116th includes about 600 Oregonians and 600 Montana citizen soldiers. About 75 percent of those deploying with the 116th CBCT are traditional guardsmen and women, meaning they hold careers as civilians.

By the end of the month, the 116th will be part of Operation New Dawn. They'll spend two months at Camp Shelby, Miss., for mission-specific training. In mid-November, they'll be off to Iraq. Their mission there will be to provide convoy and installation security and to provide logistical support for other military and civilian delegations.

For about half of the soldiers, it will be their second or even third deployment. But this is unlike the last assignment for the 116th, when they had only 90 days to prepare. The Defense Department gave the brigade 150 days between its September 2009 alert and the official mobilization in April of this year.

The U.S. combat mission in Iraq officially ended on Aug. 31. Five days later, U.S. soldiers opened fire on suicide bombers who sneaked into an Iraqi army base in Baghdad. A gun battle raged for more than two hours. The involvement of American soldiers underscored that while they are no longer officially in a combat mission, many among the roughly 50,000 U.S. soldiers still in Iraq remain in harm's way.