Vermont Army Guard members placed on alert

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(Host) More than one hundred members of the Vermont Army Guard have been placed on alert for possible deployment overseas.

It’s the first time since last year that members of the Vermont Guard have been notified that they may be called up. As VPR’s Steve Zind reports, this could be one of the last times Guard members are faced with overseas duty as a result of the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

(Zind) Members of the 86th Aero-med Company are the latest Vermont Guard members to be placed on alert. The unit specializes in airborne medical evacuation. An alert period lasts for ninety days. Right now there’s no telling how many of the company might be deployed or where oversea they’ll be sent. The alert is much smaller than one nearly a year ago that involved 1,500 Vermont Guard members. Many of them shipped out earlier this year.

Vermont Adjutant General Martha Rainville says it’s unlikely there will be any more alerts affecting large numbers of Vermont Guard members. Rainville says that’s largely because those Vermonters who fit the mission of providing security in Iraq and elsewhere are already deployed.

(Rainville) “I really think we can feel good about our position. This is our turn in the barrel right now. We’re not seeing future large scale deployments because, frankly, so much of our force is mobilized right now.”

(Zind) Pentagon officials have said that there will be a reduced U.S. troop presence in Iraq over the next two years. But Rainville says there’s no indication that the eighteen-month tours of duty that guard members are on will be shortened and they’ll come home sooner.

(Rainville) “I think we have to be very cautious about speculating on that at all. I think the most prudent course is to plan on the eighteen months.”

(Zind) Rainville says in the future she expects guard members will return to their traditional role – serving in Vermont and no longer facing long deployments overseas.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind.

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