Guard officials say deployment preparations going smoothly

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(Host) Vermont Guard officials say preparations for the upcoming deployment to Afghanistan have gone more smoothly than in the past. 

They say that’s largely because they’ve had plenty of time to get ready – and training has been better than in previous deployments.

VPR’s Steve Zind reports.

(Zind)  Many Guard soldiers who came back from earlier deployments in Iraq said the training they’d received just didn’t match up with the real conditions on the ground. 

But Guard officials and soldiers say that won’t be the case with the deployment to Afghanistan.  They say experience, plus the fact they’ve had more than a year to prepare for the mission have led to a much better training program this time around.

Colonel Will Roy of the Vermont Guard will command the task force which will work with  Afghan security forces.  Roy says soldiers here are getting much better training because it’s based on what soldiers there are telling them. 

(Roy) "There are teams out there right now analyzing what’s going on and they’re sending back information and developing training techniques and procedures to deal with those right now.  So, the information flow has really increased and that helps our soldiers prepare for the mission."

(Zind)  More than 50 percent of the nearly 1,500 Vermont Guard soldiers going to Afghanistan took part in earlier deployments. 

Captain Richard LaBarre, who served in Iraq, is part of the upcoming mission. He says his experience taught him a lot, but he’s learned from this current round of training that things can change.  

(LaBarre) "They’ve changed their tactics over the last five years since I’ve been there.  Before they would make one artillery round as an IED. Now they’re making two or three or they’re setting up a booby trap that’s a fake one and then a real one somewhere else. So, it wasn’t just the new guys that were learning stuff.  I was learning a lot."

(Zind) Guard officials say they don’t expect the Vermonters to see combat – but note that any mission in Afghanistan has risks. 

The soldiers will get more training later this year at bases in Lousiana and Indiana. 

They’ll ship out to Afghanistan beginning in late February of next year.

For VPR news, I’m Steve Zind.

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