SAN MATEO (CBS SF) – Family and friends gathered in San Mateo Friday morning to welcome home more than 60 specialized California National Guard soldiers from their deployment in Iraq.

The soldiers, who arrived Friday morning at the San Mateo National Guard armory at 400 N. Humboldt St., are from the 297th Medical Company. The unit is composed of doctors, nurses, dentists, pharmacists, X-ray technicians and other specialized soldiers. They’ve been gone since February, the unit’s first overseas deployment since its creation in 1954.

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During their deployment to Iraq, the soldiers were responsible for providing medical and dental care for coalition personnel at various outposts throughout the country.

The company also worked alongside the Iraqi military medical unit to conduct simulated mass-casualty exercises.

KCBS’ Holly Quan Reports:

The National Guardsmen provided regular medical and dental services, and also trained Iraqi military medical personnel.

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They will enjoy the standard 3 months of downtime with family and friends before resuming regular training.

Since the war began in Iraq nearly nine years ago, more than 15,000 California National Guardsmen have been deployed to Iraq. 26 were killed.

The soldiers who arrived Friday at the San Mateo Armory are among the thousands of troops President Obama promised to withdraw from Iraq by year’s end.

“This is bringing a chapter of our history to a close,” Guard spokesman Lt. Jan Bender described Friday’s homecoming.

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