(Host) One year ago there were more than a thousand members of the Vermont Guard serving in Iraq. Today there are about one hundred.
As VPR’s Steve Zind reports, the past year marked a dramatic transition in the deployment of Vermont’s part time soldiers.
(Zind) The year has been marked not only by a significant reduction in the number of Vermont Guard members serving in Iraq, it’s also brought to an end a dangerous period in their deployment.
Task Force Saber returned this summer after patrolling some of the most dangerous areas of Iraq. Six Vermonters were killed during Saber’s deployment.
The Vermont guard soldiers who are now in Iraq are on a mission that, while still dangerous, involves keeping roads clear, not searching for enemy combatants.
Captain Keith Davio is a guard spokesman.
(Davio) “It’s hard to classify ‘dangerous’. There is a different mission. These guys are out there mainly doing route clearing. They’re not looking for the bad guys, per se.”
(Zind) Unlike full time military, members of the Vermont Army Guard have not been redeployed after they have done a tour of duty overseas.
Those guard members who have gone on second tours have done so voluntarily.
While many more guard families will be together this Christmas than last, the families of the soldiers serving in Iraq, and another 20 who are in Afghanistan will spend the holidays without a loved one. Davio says the deployed soldiers probably won’t be able to come home this month, even for a short leave.
(Davio) “Odds are they will not be coming back during that time frame, because the majority of the soldiers and airman that have deployed overseas have gone recently.”
(Zind) Davio says there are currently no further deployments of Vermonter’s planned, and no large call-ups are expected.
For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind.