1st contingent from 39th arrives in Miss.

HATTIESBURG, Miss. (AP) - The first contingent of soldiers from

the Arkansas National Guard's 39th Infantry Brigade to return from

Iraq stepped off an airplane at an Army post in southern

Mississippi late Wednesday night.

About 160 soldiers belonging to the brigade's Troop A, based at

Crossett and El Dorado, Ark., arrived at Camp Shelby on the night

before Thanksgiving.

"It feels great. Glad to be home," said Spc. Curtis Aiken of

Hamburg, Ark., as he held his daughter Kirsten in his arms, with

wife Stephanie at his side. "I'm very thankful I made it back."

The rest of the brigade's 3,200 soldiers are scheduled to return

throughout the month of December.

The troops were to begin Friday morning a demobilization process

that is expected to take four to five days before they will be free

to return to their homes after their second deployment to Iraq.

Maj. Gen. William Wofford, adjutant general of the Arkansas

guard, said the demobilization process shouldn't be taken lightly.

"We ask that our soldiers ... discuss any issues they have as a

result of the deployment, whether it is something as simple as back

pain or something as complex as post-traumatic stress," Wofford

said in a letter to the soldiers and their families. "We ask that

the families of these soldiers encourage them to be candid during

the demobilization process in order to help us help them.

"The only thing better than having your loved one home for the

holidays is having them home and healthy during the holidays for

years to come."

No deployments of Arkansas guard members are scheduled in 2009.

Last year's deployment to Iraq was the second for the 39th. In

late 2003, the brigade was sent to Iraq and served there until

early 2005. During that deployment, 16 Arkansas members of the

brigade were killed.

After the first Iraq deployment, some members of the brigade

helped out on border missions in New Mexico and in New Orleans

after Hurricane Katrina before receiving orders for a second


(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)