More than 600 Iowa National Guard soldiers are starting to go through counseling and other parts of the military’s preparation process before they can leave active duty status. Lieutenant Colonel Ben Corell is their commander and he estimates the unit will return to Iowa by early August.
Their replacements in Iraq have already arrived and are starting to take-over some of the duties the Iowa soldiers have been performing in Iraq for the past 15 months. "The ball is in motion here. We still have some work to do…Morale is high," Corell says. "We are also very much looking forward to completing this mission…and then getting these soldiers back into the arms of their loved ones."
Corell’s unit spent six months training in Mississippi before shipping off to Iraq. The soldiers were originally scheduled to return to Iowa in April, but their tours were extended ’til later this summer.
Corell says as the commander of the unit, he’ll be the last one to step up onto the aircraft that’ll take the soldiers out of Iraq. "I’ll tell you that I’m very much looking forward to getting home to my wife and the rest of my family back up in northeast Iowa," Corell told reporters this week during a telephone conference call.
Corell’s unit is part of a more than 4,000-soldier brigade which is ending its tour of duty in Iraq this summer.
Corell lives with his wife in Strawberry Point. Three of his sons are in the same guard unit. Two remained stateside. The youngest, 23-year-old Travis, served in Iraq under his father.