(Host) The head of the Vermont National Guard says Vermont soldiers face a difficult, possibly more dangerous, assignment in Afghanistan.
Adjutant General Michael Dubie says the task has shifted from primarily training Afghan troops, to more of a combat mission.
VPR’s John Dillon report:
(Dillon) Dubie addressed a somber audience of lawmakers as he talked about the year ahead for the 1,500 Vermonters being deployed to Afghanistan.
(Dubie) We have the best led, best equipped, best trained fighting force Vermont has ever put on the field of battle. But let me be clear, it’s not going to be easy.
(Dillon) It’s the largest deployment for Vermont troops since World War Two. About 750 soldiers have already left the state; more will go this weekend. Dubie said the Vermonters were training for their mission this summer just as President Obama and the Pentagon were re-evaluating how to use U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
(Dubie) Consequently, our mission that was primarily going to be training and mentoring the Afghan national security forces, has changed.
(Dillon) Dubie said the Vermont brigade will be stationed in the eastern part of the country. He said the troops will be assigned an area of territory to control.
(Dubie) We will still, just like all other forces over there, will be training and mentoring the Afghan police and the Afghan military. But many of our units will have a more traditional combat role as their primary mission.
(Dillon) Lawmakers asked the Adjutant General what the Legislature could do to help the troops. Dubie said he may ask for an appropriation to bolster an emergency fund for guard families. But he said the appropriation may be offset by using a separate fund that helps pay for college tuition for soldiers.
(Dubie) Because so many of our college students are going to Afghanistan, we will not have as much need for our college tuition so we think it can probably be a wash this year.
(Dillon) The troop deployment has affected many Vermont communities – and the impact is being felt at the Statehouse as well. Capitol Police Chief Les Dimick served in Iraq and was recently deployed to Afghanistan. And Statehouse custodian Alan Bean will ship out this weekend to a military base in Indiana before being sent overseas.
(Bean) Other than leaving my wife behind for a year to deal with everything, I’m good with it.
(Dillon) Bean is a Northfield native who has worked at the Statehouse for nine years. He served in the active duty military two decades ago, and says he re-joined the National Guard out of a sense of duty.
(Bean) I had gotten out for nine years, and missed the Iraq deployment, felt that I hadn’t done what I had signed up to do many, many years ago, and re-enlisted knowing full well I was going somewhere.
(Dillon) Bean says he’ll stay in touch with his friends at the Statehouse with periodic emails.
For VPR News, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.