Leader Blues

Thursday, October 04, 2007

TOP STORY >>Soldiers activated, report to armories

By HEATHER HARTSELL
Leader staff writer

Soldiers from the Arkansas Army National Guard’s 39th Infantry Brigade Combat Team were activated Monday as they reported to their local armories in preparation for a maximum one-year deployment to Iraq.

The 3,000 soldiers of the 39th, Arkansas’ largest Guard unit with units based in towns around the state, includiing several from this area, will deploy in early January as part of the replacement forces currently operating in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The four units of the 39th went on active duty at their home stations for a 90-day pre-mobilization training program, said Maj. Gen. William D. Wofford, the adjutant general of Arkansas.

Approximately 800 soldiers from the brigade’s 2nd Battalion, 153rd Infantry, headquartered in Searcy, and the 1st Battalion, 151st Cavalry, headquartered in Warren, are training at Fort Chaffee for two weeks before returning to their home station armories as more 39th Brigade soldiers rotate in for training.

“The support of the entire state for our soldiers and their families has been tremendous,” Wofford said.

“On behalf of our soldiers, we ask for that continued support, which will allow these 3,200 men and women to focus on their mission and return home safely at its end,” he added.

As the soldiers spend time training at their home armories, at Camp Robinson and at Fort Chaffee over the next three months, the effort will ensure the soldiers’ readiness through home station training while minimizing time away from family.

Priorities for the 39th during their training 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 such as weapon qualifications and meeting the warrior tasks. All these things allow them to focus on unit level collective training once they get to the mobilization station.

“The 39th will adhere to a liberal leave policy during the December holiday season to allow even more time with family prior to departure to the brigade’s mobilization station in early January,” Wofford said.

After the completion of the initial 65 days of the pre-mobilization training, soldiers may opt to be released from active duty orders from Dec. 5-31 if necessary for personal or family reasons.

Those choosing to do so must complete the pre-mobilization training requirements prior to the brigade’s mobilization date, Wofford said.

“The other option to complete the required training and preparations consisted of multiple extended weekend drills and annual training periods, which was simply not reasonable due to the fact that our soldiers have civilian employers,” Wofford said.

“Many of these employers have expressed their desire to support their troops, but they simply cannot manage a business if they have to endure multiple absences due to military training. They don’t want to lose their employees at all, but if they have to, that absence needs to be a single window of time so they can hire a replacement in the meantime,” he said.

“Our primary concerns were not only to prepare our soldiers, but also to take care of their families and employers, by providing them a timely notification of when they could expect to come on active duty,” Wofford added.

The 39th as a whole was last deployed in October 2003, and released from active duty in April 2005.

About 600 Arkansas National Guard soldiers and airmen are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.