Leader Blues

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

TOP STORY >>Guardsmen heading back to Iraq

By HEATHER HARTSELL
Leader staff writer

Soldiers from the Arkansas Army National Guard’s 39th Infantry Brigade Combat Team were alerted Friday and could face a possible one-year deployment after October 1 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The 2,800 soldiers of the 39th would deploy as part of 13,000 replacement forces currently operating in Iraq, joining National Guard brigade combat teams from Oklahoma, Indiana and Ohio.

All four units will deploy consistent with the Secretary of Defense’s new policy of mobilizing reserve- component units for a maximum of one year at any one time. The final determination of whether the units will deploy will be made based on conditions on the ground in Iraq.

“As with any alert, this does not necessarily mean that they will receive a mobilization order,” Major Gen. William Wofford, Arkansas adjutant general, said. “What it means is that we have been identified, and will probably be included in a mobilization order when it is published.”

Wofford said the projected mobilization date is in fiscal year 2008, which begins October 1. Of the 2,800 alerted, the number that will actually be deployed won’t be known until the orders come down.

According to Capt. Christopher Heathscott, public affairs officer for the Arkansas National Guard, 1,665 soldiers currently in the 39th have previously deployed, having returned from their first mission to Iraq in February 2005 after serving under the command of the 1st Cavalry Division during their 17-month deployment.

Approximately 40 soldiers with the Headquarters Battery of the 142nd Fires Brigade based in Fayetteville left today to begin mobilization training at Fort Sill, Okla., prior to deploying in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

While still at home, priorities for the 39th will be on soldier readiness processing – an inventory of equipment, getting medical and shot records updated, taking care of any legal service needs, and hearing a variety of mandatory briefings; individual training – like weapon qualifications; and meeting the warrior tasks.

“That allows them to focus on unit level collective training once they get there (the mobilization station),” Wofford said.
Col. Kendall Penn, commander of the 39th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, said the possible mission is one the unit has been training for the past two years.

“It is a mission that we are capable of doing. They all volunteered for the Army National Guard, and they are willing to step forward and do their job and answer the call of duty that the nation has put out,” Penn said.

Two other units, the 871st (Troop Command) Headquarters Company from North Little Rock and the 213th Area Support Medical Company from North Little Rock and Dumas, received alert orders in October with potential mobilization later this summer.

If deployed, it will mark the first time in the Iraq War that full Guard units have been called on for a second tour of duty.
The Pentagon has made changes to its Reserve Force Management Policy by removing all the limitations on how often Guard and Reserve forces can be deployed.

The previous military policy allowed for members to have five years at home after a deployment before becoming eligible to deploy overseas again.

The 39th is Arkansas’ largest Guard unit with soldiers based in towns around the state. There are currently 1,500 Arkansas National Guard soldiers and airmen serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are expected home later this year.