The first group of Minnesota National Guard "Red Bull" soldiers arrived home Sunday.
The 250 troops flew into Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport around 5 p.m. from Fort Lewis, Washington and then were escorted via bus by local police departments to Stillwater, Rosemount and Inver Grove Heights.
About 160 troops met their families at the Rosemount Community Center and 67 arrived at the armory in Inver Grove Heights.
Twenty three troops arrived at the Stillwater armory a little after 6 p.m. and were greeted by dozens of family members, friends and supporters, said Amy Hvinden, a family readiness coordinator at the Stillwater armory.
"It was very exciting for the families to see all the supporters who came to greet the soldiers," said Hvinden, whose husband Ron is scheduled to arrive home with one of the next few waves of more than 1,000 returning Red Bulls who were deployed to Iraq early last year. The troops are from around Minnesota and neighboring states. Many are from Woodbury and neighboring communities.
Members of the Patriot Guard and volunteers with the Washington County and Woodbury Yellow Ribbon military family support groups cheered soldiers as they entered the Stillwater armory, where Hvinden said some families were listening to the Vikings NFC Championship football game via radio in anticipation of their loved ones' arrival.
"A lot of people were asking about that," Hvinden said about the coincidental timing of the game with the troops arrival. "Unfortunately the armory isn't wired for cable television."
A large crowd turned out at the Rosemount Community Center to welcome the 160 soldiers who were bused there to receive their families.
While most of the people who showed up in Rosemount had family returning, a good number of people from the area turned out just to show their support.
Rosemount are youth hockey players showed up in large numbers. The hockey program dedicated its season to the 34th and has sent over jerseys and hockey sticks to the soldiers still deployed.
For more on this story see the Wednesday, Jan. 27 print edition of the Woodbury Bulletin.