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Utah servicemen, officials react to Obama's plan for Iraq withdrawal

Published: Friday, Oct. 21 2011 9:08 p.m. MDT

In this Tuesday, July 13, 2010 file photo, U.S. Army soldiers from 2nd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division board a C-17 aircraft at Baghdad International Airport as they begin their journey to the United States. (Maya Alleruzzo, Associated Press) In this Tuesday, July 13, 2010 file photo, U.S. Army soldiers from 2nd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division board a C-17 aircraft at Baghdad International Airport as they begin their journey to the United States. (Maya Alleruzzo, Associated Press)

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah military officials say the White House's drawdown announcement of all U.S. forces from Iraq will mean between 500 and 510 local servicemen and servicewomen will be heading home by the end of the year.

"We've got 450 troops from the Triple Deuce (222nd) in Iraq," said Utah National Guard spokesman Maj. Bruce Roberts.

In addition to Guard soldiers, Hill Air Force Base could see between 50 to 60 more Utah troops being ordered out of Iraq, said HAFB spokesman Rich Essary.

Staff Sgt. Isaac Yates of the Utah Army National Guard said he thinks it's time for the U.S. to exit. Yates served two tours in Iraq, and said when the U.S. initially overturned the Iraq government, it was important that they stay to rebuild it.

"It was our responsibility to try to stabilize it again," he said.

President Barack Obama speaks in the briefing room of the White House in Washington, Friday, Oct. 21, 2011, where he declared an end to the Iraq war, one of the longest and most divisive conflicts in U.S. history, announcing that all U.S. troops would be withdrawn from the country by year's end. (Associated Press) President Barack Obama speaks in the briefing room of the White House in Washington, Friday, Oct. 21, 2011, where he declared an end to the Iraq war, one of the longest and most divisive conflicts in U.S. history, announcing that all U.S. troops would be withdrawn from the country by year's end. (Associated Press)

Now that there's a government in place, the country needs to learn how stand on its own.

"Maybe it is time for us to let them go ahead and take the reigns of their own future," he said.

Yates was deployed to Iraq for the first time just three months after returning from a religious mission in Brazil for the LDS Church. He said the war has defined much of his adult life, essentially for the past nine years.

"It's been the single biggest event in my life," he said.

Neither the Utah National Guard or Air Force commands have exact schedules yet, but commanders are telling Utahns in Iraq to stay focused on their mission for safety.

"We know that our unit would be affected and at this point we're telling our soldiers to stay flexible and to keep focused on their mission so they're safe and just to wait for word to come," Roberts said.

Yates said he was a bit relieved to hear President Barack Obama's announcement, but with other wars taking place globally, he knows he could still be sent to battle.

"In a way, I'm a little relieved, but there's always a chance of going to Afghanistan," he said. "You never know."

Erica Yates, Issac's wife, said she's glad to at least know there's one less war zone her husband could be sent to in the future.

"It's nice to know that that chapter of our married life is over," she said. "Although, Afghanistan is probably scarier at this point. ... I don't know which one I would prefer."

Since fighting began in Iraq in March 2003, some 5,000 troops from Utah have been deployed there. At least 40 Utah troops have died there.

Contributing: Molly Farmer

E-mail: jboal@desnews.com, gfattah@desnews.com

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