Guard members to learn about deployments this week

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(Host) Many members of the Vermont National Guard will be learning in coming weeks if they’ll be deployed to Afghanistan.

Earlier this year, the Army announced that up to 19-hundred Vermont guard members will be mobilized in 2010. Now the guard is in the process of deciding which of its members will deploy.

VPR’s Steve Zind reports.

(Zind) The guard calls it putting “faces to spaces.” Until now there’s just been that number: 1900. Now there will be names to go with it.

(Dubie) "In the next couple of weeks is when we enter our next phase. And that phase is really to start getting people identified and ready to go."

(Zind) Vermont’s Adjutant General, Michael Dubie, says identifying the men and women who will be deployed now, will give them a chance to train all next year, then take the holidays off before their deployment in early 2010.

And unlike past deployments, more of the guard’s training will take place here, instead of at a faraway military base. It gives members a chance to spend more time with their families.

Dubie says because so many members have already been to Iraq and Afghanistan, there’s a wealth of homegrown experience to draw from in training.

(Dubie) "We have never been as experienced as we are right now. As opposed to over the last several years, we had people who had never deployed before."

(Zind) The Vermont guard’s mission during their 10 months overseas will be to train the Afghan national army and the country’s police force.

Dubie says despite the intensified fighting in Afghanistan and talk of sending more combat troops there, he doesn’t think the Vermonters’ mission will change.

(Dubie) "The Army leadership may make decisions to send more people to Afghanistan, I know that’s being discussed openly in the news, but we don’t think that’s going to affect the fact that we’ve been identified for the training mission and we’re really good at that."

(Zind) Dubie acknowledges that guard families are watching the news of the Taliban resurgence in Afghanistan. But he says there’s still enthusiasm about going there instead of returning to Iraq.

(Dubie) "I still hear that people feel good about going to Afghanistan as opposed to going back to Iraq, because that’s where the large majority of our deployments have been. We’re obviously monitoring the situation in Afghanistan like everyone else is."

(Zind) It’s unclear how many guard members will actually deploy to Afghanistan. Dubie says 1900 is a – quote -“worst case scenario.” The true number won’t be known until next year.

For VPR News, I’m Steve Zind.

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