MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Nearly 700 soldiers from the Minnesota National Guard’s St. Paul-based 34th Expeditionary Combat Aviation Brigade (ECAB) are returning home this week after a year deployed.

The ECAB faced a volatile environment at the beginning of their deployment, which supported Operation Spartan Shield and Operation Inherent Resolve, Col. Gregory Fix, the brigade commander said.

According to the National Guard, two U.S. and one Coalition service member were killed in March after significant rocket attacks on Camp Taji, Iraq. Spc. Juan Mendez Covarrubias, signal support systems specialist assigned to the 1st Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, serving under the 34th ECAB, was among them.

“Our Soldiers and Airmen continued supporting the mission through injury and loss of life, and transitioning through uncertainties to include COVID-19. And they always accomplished the mission,” said Fix.

The ECAB’s mission to assist Iraqi Security forces in their fight against Daesh by providing attack and lift capabilities to partner forces continued. Due to the success of the Iraqi Security Forces against Daesh, many bases, including Camp Taji, were returned to the Government of Iraq as the need for Coalition support lessened.

The 34th ECAB was also called on to lead and complete the closing of Camp Taji and return it to the Government of Iraq. This is historic as the 34th ECAB opened Taji in late 2014 as the Operation Inherent Resolve mission developed.

The brigade deployed as a multi-state Army National Guard Expeditionary Combat Aviation Brigade including soldiers from units in Iowa, Ohio, Oklahoma, Nevada, New Hampshire, Michigan, Mississippi, and Montana.

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