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Deployment of Alaska soldiers largest ever

About 600 Guard troops to serve one year in Middle East

Posted: Monday, July 10, 2006

Approximately 600 soldiers from the Alaska Army National Guard, including 60 from Southeast Alaska, are heading to Camp Shelby, Miss., in the largest Alaska National Guard troop deployment in history.

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The troops will spent three months training in Mississippi, then continue to the Middle East for a one-year tour of duty. Most will be stationed in Iraq, but some will be positioned in Kuwait, according to the guard's public information office.

The National Guard troops are from the 3rd Battalion, 297th Infantry. Soldiers from the battalion's Alpha Company returned to the state this January after a deployment in Iraq.

The new wave of troops, from the Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Delta and Headquarters Company, will provide security for coalition forces.

"There's a rotation plan in place," said Maj. Joel Gilbert, operations officer for the rear detachment of the 3rd Battalion. "Guys that just came back in January, it's not mandatory for them to go. A dozen guys have said, 'I'd like to go back.'"

Troops from the Headquarters Company in Anchorage and Juneau left for Mississippi Friday and Saturday from Juneau International Airport. More will leave Anchorage today and Tuesday for Camp Shelby.

"Most of them have had about a month (of notice), some have had less," said Laura Gilbert, family assistance center coordinator in Juneau for the Alaska Air National Guard.

"Things are going well, morale is high and people are motivated," said Lt. Col. Duff Mitchell, commander of the 3rd Battalion, 297th Infantry, in a press release. "They want to go and volunteered to go because they're experienced. They want to watch out for their fellow soldiers who they've trained with for years and make sure they're safe and taken care of."

• Korry Keeker can be reached at korry.keeker@juneauempire.com.



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