National Guard soldiers returning from Iraq to Washington

The soldiers of the 81st Brigade Combat Team are one step closer to home.

About 370 soldiers from the Washington National Guard's largest unit returned to the United States early Monday morning, nine months after they deployed to Iraq. The soldiers' first stop stateside is at Fort McCoy, Wis., where they will begin a demobilization process in which they receive medical and dental checkups and briefings on transition to civilian life, pay and benefits. The process can take up to six days.

National Guard officials haven't yet announced when the soldiers will return to Washington. A series of homecoming ceremonies at McChord Air Force Base and Fairchild Air Force Base outside Spokane are being planned. The brigade's advance party could land as early as Saturday.

The entire brigade is expected home by the first week of August.

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