ARLINGTON, Va. — Army officials said Monday that about 300 of the 380 soldiers from the 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team who had returned from Iraq in late July are going back to join the rest of their unit, whose yearlong deployment was extended to help cope with ongoing violence in Baghdad.

Army Gen. George W. Casey, commander of Multi-National Forces-Iraq, decided to extend the tour of the Fort Wainwright, Alaska, unit for up to four months on July 27, two days after President Bush and Nouri al-Maliki, Iraq’s prime minister, agreed to send more U.S. and Iraqi troops to Baghdad to try to curb sectarian violence there.

But the 172nd was so close to the end of its one-year deployment that it had already begun sending back soldiers and equipment, including a 380-member advance “torch party” team.

“Torch parties,” which are so nicknamed because they pave the way for other soldiers to come home, are always sent back ahead of the main body of re-deploying troops to begin the complicated process of re-settling the soldiers in their permanent garrisons.

Torch party soldiers include representatives from every company and organization in the brigade, a senior Army official told Stripes Monday.

They open barracks and arrange for personal items to betaken out of storage, set up re-integration classes and instruction, get computers back on-line, and otherwise “’take care of everything administratively the unit needs to do,” the Army official said.

Now most of the 172nd’s torch party will get back on a plane and head for Iraq, but the Army official said he did not know exactly when the soldiers would join their units.

The Army scheduled a press conference on Monday afternoon, after Stripes went to press, with high-ranking Army officials to explain the details of the return.

The job of the officials was to assure the public that the Army “is concerned about our families, and we’re trying to take care of our soldiers,” the senior official said.

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