It's been a long year for Korbin Noyes. His mom, Sgt. Jinny Noyes, a Rosemount resident, has been deployed to Iraq since February with the 34th Infantry Division and he has waited for her to return.
The wait ended Sunday evening when Jinny burst through the doors of the Rosemount Community Center gymnasium.
"It feels good to have her home," said Korbin, talking into his mother in her Army issued fatigues.
Sgt. Noyes returned Sunday with the first wave of 34th Infantry Division soldiers to come back from Basra, Iraq. Noyes was deployed with more than 1,000 soldiers to provide leadership and command for a 16,000-person multinational task force in the southern third of the country.
While overseas, Sgt. Noyes worked in personnel administration processing awards. In the states, she is a full-time employee of the National Guard and works at the Rosemount Armory.
Korbin isn't the only one happy to have Jinny back. Still a little teary eyed, Rose and Gayle Noyes, Jinny's parents, said they are happy to have their daughter back safe and sound. They are also happy they can return to being grandparents instead of caretakers. Korbin stayed with Rose and Gayle in Winona during Jinny's deployment.
"We're too old to be parents," said Gayle.
As for Jinny getting her hands on the people she loves was heaven.
"It's awesome," said Jinny, squeezing Korbin.
There were plenty of other happy people at the Rosemount Community Center Sunday night.
Excited to see their dad for the first time in a year Tony, Jennie and Charlie Liberg couldn't contain their excitement. The three, from Andover, crawled over each other for a better view as they waited for the soldiers to arrive.
"He's been gone a long time and I want to hug him," said Jennie of her dad, Sgt. Shawn Liberg.
The joy on their three little faces when they spotted their father was priceless.
"I see him, I see him," shouted Tony.
Not every soldier returning Sunday had family waiting. Michael Zetts, of Youngstown, Ohio, will have to wait a week before he gets to go home.
Zetts, signed up with the Minnesota National Guard while student at McNally Smith School of Music in St. Paul. So he's still got a ways to go.
Excited to be back in the states, though, Zetts doesn't plan to waste any time, Zetts said he planned to party with friends for a few days before returning to Ohio.
"It feels good to be back," said Zetts.
A large crowd turned out to the Rosemount Community Center to welcome the 160 soldiers who were bused there to receive their families. The rest of the 250 soldiers were bused to either the Inver Grove Heights or Stillwater armories.
While most of the people who gathered had family returning, a good number of people from the area turned out just to show their support.
Rosemount Area Hockey Association players showed up to show their support. The hockey program dedicated its season to the 34th and has sent over jerseys and hockey sticks to the soldiers still deployed.
As the soldiers left the Rosemount Community Center the hockey players boisterously thanked them for their service.
Mel and Leslie Henschel of Apple Valley showed up with a sign that said "Thank You." Mel, a Navy veteran, said he just wanted to support the soldiers and was glad to be able to come out for the event.
The event also drew some celebrities. Miss Teen Minnesota Jessica Scheu showed up to show her support. Sheu's platform is Soldiers' Angels, a program that supports returning military personnel.
Sheu said attending the homecomings is an emotional experience even if you don't know someone returning.
"It's exciting to be with the families and celebrate with them," Sheu said.
More to come
Over the next month and half the rest of the division will return in three groups. The next is expected Jan. 30.
The Red Bulls left Minnesota last February in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. More than 1,000 soldiers, from 273 Minnesota cities including 16 from Rosemount, served with the division as it provided leadership and command for a 16,000 multinational force task force.
Major General Richard Nash said the mission of the deployment was not to provide military offensive but to support the Iraqi people in their efforts to take control of their own country. The division aided the Iraqi people in establishing independence and security.
The 34th, which operated out of Basra, Iraq, was responsible for nine of Iraq's 18 provinces. The division was responsible for the provinces south of Baghdad. The area is about the size of Minnesota and has a population of 8.5 million people.
The deployment was a milestone for the Minnesota National Guard, as it has never served in a command capacity before. The 34th took over command in May from the 10th Mountain Division, an active duty Army division out of Ft. Drum, New York.
According to a press release from the Minnesota National Guard the Red Bulls completed their mission during a critical period of Iraq's history by accomplishing three main objectives: ensuring Iraqi security forces could protect their population and borders in southern Iraq, developing southern Iraq's civil capacity and economic security and setting conditions for a drawdown of U.S. forces in the area.
While in Iraq the 34th:
Increased agribusiness in southern Iraq by providing equipment
Set conditions for a drawdown of U.S. forces by closing or transferring 16 patrol bases, Started the flow of military equipment out of the country
Trained more than 170 intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance counterparts Improved the Shalamsha Port of Entry by synchronizing multiple agency efforts into a unified border security plan
Transferred roughly $10.5 million in excess property to the Iraqi government
Joint operations with the Iraqi Security Forces that resulted in the seizure of weapons caches that included 3,773 mortars, 2,655 projectiles, 561 rockets, 540 artillery pieces and 133 improvised explosive devices.
Coordinated for more than $193 million to be invested in to more than 1,000 civil improvement projects through the U.S and Iraqi Commanders Emergency Response program
Established Contingency Operating Base Basra as fully operational division headquarters by completing 55 major projects including four Life Support Areas, numerous road and four buildings.