Homecoming bashes planned for returning Iowa National Guard troops

(Radio Iowa) – If you have a flight today out of the Des Moines International Airport, expect to see plenty of red, white and blue flags amidst camouflage uniforms, hugs and flowing tears.

About 40 members of an Iowa National Guard unit are returning home from a 10-month deployment to Central America.

Guard spokesman Colonel Greg Hapgood says the 186th Military Police Company, based at Camp Dodge in Johnston, has been performing a series of duties in Honduras.

“Providing base defense for a U.S. military installation down there,” Hapgood says. “They’ve also worked with Honduran security forces on things like protecting distinguished visitors, responding to bomb threats, drug trafficking and other kinds of disturbances.”

The unit was mobilized in December and the 40-some troops are returning today to three separate homecoming celebrations.

“Given the size of their unit, they’re not big enough to charter an entire plane so basically, they’re on three separate flights,” Hapgood says. “The Des Moines airport has been so gracious to allow us to welcome them home right there in the airport when the flights come in.”

The flights are due to land at 11:30 AM, 3:20 PM and 8:30 PM.

Hapgood says only one other group of Iowa-based soldiers is overseas at the moment.

“Right now, the Iowa National Guard has approximately 100 soldiers from the 833rd Engineer Company deployed to Afghanistan,” Hapgood says. “We anticipate that unit will be home sometime within the next 30 to 60 days.”

The unit returning today, the 186th Military Police Company, was previously mobilized for Operation Iraqi Freedom (2007-08 and 2003-04), Operation Joint Endeavor (1996), and Operations Desert Storm/Desert Shield (1990-91).