About 2,600 Troops Prepare to Spend Christmas at Mexico Border

December 20, 2016: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, left, looks at Spc. Steven Galvan's one-month-old daughter Gianna while serving a Christmas meal to members of the Texas National Guard, deployed on the border of Mexico. One year later, 700 U.S. troops will be spending Christmas at the same border, along with another 700 in Arizona and 1,200 in California. (The Monitor photo via AP/Nathan Lambrecht)
December 20, 2016: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, left, looks at Spc. Steven Galvan's one-month-old daughter Gianna while serving a Christmas meal to members of the Texas National Guard, deployed on the border of Mexico. One year later, 700 U.S. troops will be spending Christmas at the same border, along with another 700 in Arizona and 1,200 in California. (The Monitor photo via AP/Nathan Lambrecht)

AUSTIN, Texas -- Another 550 active-duty service members made it 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 service members 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 service members are stationed in Texas, 700 in Arizona and 1,200 in California.

Many service members 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."

Religious services will be available, and some troops may 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 service members 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, 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 service members were situated within the three states.

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