Guard deployment planned

Posted: Sunday, January 15, 2006

ANCHORAGE - About 700 more members of the Alaska Army National Guard will be heading to Iraq in the summer.

The deployment is the largest ever for the Guard, officials said.

The final orders for the deployment have not come in, but officials expect them soon and wanted to tell everyone now so they can prepare, said Guard spokeswoman Kalei Brooks.

"More so than active-duty folks, these are going to be people's neighbors, teachers, that are going to be pulled out of the community," she said.

The Army Guard has sent more than 300 Alaskans to war.

For many years, Alaska Guard troops were not tapped because they were considered "forward deployed" in Alaska during the Cold War, said Guard spokesman Maj. Mike Haller. The largest deployment of Army Guard soldiers prior to the Iraq conflict was 300 soldiers during World War II, Brooks said.

The 700 soldiers have not been selected, but officials expect to notify them in coming weeks, Brooks said.

The first Army Guard unit to leave for Iraq - 130 soldiers from Alpha Company, 3rd Battalion, 297th Infantry - returned Friday from its yearlong tour.

The soldiers' families showed up at the National Guard Armory on Fort Richardson carrying balloons and handmade signs.

One man from Juneau began crying when asked about his son. Mike Irwin said he was crying because he was proud of his son and relieved he was coming home safe.

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