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A salute to local soldiers

Latham-based 206th New York Army National Guard honored at Freedom Salute Ceremony

Following a year of peacekeeping missions in Iraq, more than 160 members of the Latham-based 206th New York Army National Guard Military Police Company gathered at the Desmond Hotel on Sunday, Sept. 12, for the Freedom Salute Campaign, one of the largest Army National Guard events in its history.

The 206th was deployed in August 2009 to Basra, Iraq, to help train Iraqi police officers and provide security for the parliamentary elections, which were held in March, according to a press release. The end of combat missions in Iraq was announced this summer.

Most of the soldiers at the Desmond had their family members in tow. They received an encased American Flag, a lapel insignia, a commemorative coin and a certificate of appreciation from the Army National Guard. They also received a Future Soldier Footlocker Kit for their children.

The afternoon brought a sense of relief for many of the soldiers as several guest speakers hailed their mission as a successful one. Maj. Gen. Patrick Murphy congratulated the men and women of the 206th for their work in Iraq and said that their success not only led to a transition home but a transition in Iraq as well.

We're here to celebrate a successful deployment, he said in his speech. "It was a mission that led to a transition " 'New Dawn.'"

New Dawn is the name of the mission that follows Operation Iraqi Freedom, the combat mission. The new mission focuses on fostering stability in the transition from military occupation to an Iraqi-led government.

Lt. Col. Charles Buxton of the 203rd Military Police Company based in Athens, Ala., came to New York to participate in the Freedom Salute because he worked closely with the 206th.

"My battalion had responsibility for establishing Iraqi police leadership in the Basra province," he said. "We were also responsible for providing command and control for the two MP companies located to the south of Baghdad. The 206th were one of the companies we had in Basra, along with my battalion headquarters."

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