Iraq War Over, NJ National Guardsmen Finally Return Home

But another big deployment looms on the horizon.

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Some of the last troops to leave Iraq last week finally arrived home to New Jersey Tuesday. The airmen from the New Jersey Air National Guard had originally been scheduled to stay in Iraq for another month -- but they were glad to come home for the holidays. Brian Thompson reports from Join Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst. (Published Tuesday, Dec 20, 2011)

    The last few New Jersey National Guardsmen returned home to grateful families Tuesday just in time for the holidays, days after helping turn out the lights on America's nearly 9-year-old war in Iraq.

    "This is all I want for Christmas," said Johanna Sikaffy of Secaucus, N.J., wife of Master Sgt. George Sikaffy.

    The 15 guardsmen who came back are part of the Air Guard's 108th Wing at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, and after deploying last July, were originally scheduled to spend another month in Iraq.

    But with Iraq and the United States unable to agree on keeping our forces there any longer, the war came to an abrupt end and the troops came home.

    "The only thing I was thinking was getting back home to my wife and bringing my team home in one piece," said Master Sgt. Sikaffy.

    Lauren Mulrooney of Phillipsburg, N.J., waited impatiently on base for her boyfriend, Staff Sgt. Steven Fielding's bus to arrive -- about an hour late.

    "My heart was pounding," Mulrooney said.

    Several of the Air Guardsmen admitted they would be more than willing to go to Afghanistan, where another war continues.

    Some of their fellow servicemen may have to.

    NBC New York has learned that the N.J. National Guard is bracing for orders that would send its 50th Infantry Brigade back to the Middle East.

    Nearly 3,000 soldiers in the brigade went to Iraq a few years ago.

    Sources say the unit is being seriously considered for a tour of duty in Afghanistan, possibly as early as the end of next year, or early in 2013.

    "It's another country that we can help out," said the Air Guard's Sgt. Heather Perez, one of the 15 just back from Iraq.

    Follow Brian Thompson on Twitter @brian4NY