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After 11 months in the Middle East, MN National Guard soldiers will return home

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After an 11-month deployment in the Middle East, more than 150 soldiers from the Minnesota Army National Guard will return home.

The soldiers in the 682nd Engineer Battalion will return to their Willmar base this weekend – a ceremony to welcome them home is scheduled for 3 p.m. Saturday at Willmar Senior High School.

The soldiers are from 99 communities across the state and range from ages 19-54, according to the Grand Forks Herald. For about 100 of them, it was their first deployment, said battalion commander Lt. Col. Keith Ferdon.

They were deployed to the Middle East in support of the U.S. military's Operation Spartan Shield.

As part of "Task Force Wild," the soldiers oversaw and executed 285 construction projects in Afghanistan, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates – the projects were valued at $20.2 million, according to a news release. They also distributed and maintained equipment that increased the battalion's operational readiness from 59 percent to 91 percent.

"The soldiers of 'Task Force Wild' excelled in their mission, and were recognized across the theater for their hard work and dedication," Ferdon said in a news release. "I couldn't be prouder of how our soldiers represented the State of Minnesota."

Previously, Ferdon noted the irony of his Minnesotan battalion's role in the "Task Force Wild" saying, "As a Minnesota hockey fan that is pretty cool."

According to the Department of Defense, Operation Spartan Shield contributes to the military's ability to "counter, protect, defend and prepare while simultaneously building partner capacity" and ensuring that the U.S. "has the capability to win decisively in conflicts in the Middle East."

The 461st Engineer Company – an Army Reserve unit based in Fargo – as well a the 312th Engineer Company based in Duluth, were deployed to Kuwait in April for Operation Spartan Shield, according to Inforum and the Duluth News Tribune.

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