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About 2,600 active-duty troops prepare to spend Christmas at the border

U.S Soldiers with 541st Engineer Company, Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force 7, position concertina wire on a practice barricade at Naval Air Facility El Centro in California, Dec. 4, 2018. U.S. Northern Command is providing military support to the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Customs and Border Protection to secure the Southern border of the United States. (Sgt. Asia J. Sorenson/U.S. Marine Corps)

Another 550 active-duty servicemembers made in back to their home stations this week from deployments at the U.S.-Mexico border, U.S. Northern Command officials said Friday.

The 2,600 remaining servicemembers at the southern border are preparing for the Christmas holiday away from their families as they support U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents in California, Arizona and Texas.

“As with all U.S. military units serving at home and around the world every day, some service members will be conducting their assigned missions in support of CBP over the Christmas holiday,” said Col. Cathy Wilkinson, public affairs director for U.S. Army North.

Numbers available Friday showed 700 servicemembers are stationed in Texas, 700 are in Arizona and 1,200 are in California.

Many servicemembers deployed to California and Arizona will have what is referred to as “light duty days” on Dec. 24 and 25, Wilkinson said. “Unit commanders have organized morale-building events such as sports events and shared meals.”

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Religious services will be available, and some troops might travel locally to spend time with friends and families, she added. Army Lt. Gen. Jeff Buchanan, U.S. Northern Command’s forward operational commander, will visit servicemembers in California and Arizona on Christmas Day.

The mission along the border began Oct. 31 and is expected to end Jan. 31. At the height of the active-duty deployment, which was initiated by President Donald Trump to “harden” the border in advance of a migrant caravan moving through Central America toward the United States, about 5,900 servicemembers were situated within the three states.

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© 2018 the Stars and Stripes

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