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Wednesday, June 2, 2004


Brigade called to war

Mobilization includes combat preparedness training

Express Staff Writer

The entire Idaho Army National Guard’s 116th Cavalry Brigade was issued orders Saturday to report for combat training. It also will travel to the Iraq War with more tanks and armored vehicles than previously planned.

As individual orders trickle in for each of the 4,300 members of the unit, the Snake River Brigade’s troops are expected to report for combat training in Fort Bliss, Texas, by July 1, said Lt. Col. Tim Marsano, Idaho National Guard spokesman.

Originally called up for stability and support operations--such as establishing check points, guarding convoys and scouting for enemies—the brigade is now going to be traveling with more of its heavy guns to Iraq, including tanks, howitzers and Bradley fighting vehicles.

The call-up currently totals 2,000 troops from Idaho, including 750 soldiers with leadership roles who received orders last month. The full mobilization also now includes at least 500 troops from Southern Idaho, including Blaine County.

Twin Falls, which is sending a large number of soldiers to Iraq, is planning a send off, Marsano said. Since soldiers are coming from communities throughout the state, Marsano expected many local festivities in support of the troops. He said a commemoration at the state level for the entire brigade is likely just prior to departure to Iraq.

The David Ketchum Post of the American Legion, based in Ketchum, is providing Blue Star Banners to the families of men and women serving in the Armed Forces.

"We want to make contact with the wives and husbands and fathers and mothers and further implement the Blue Star Banner," said American Legion Post Commander Tom Johnson. "We want to support families in any way we can during this time of war . . . last year, we presented over 50 banners to Blaine County families."

PEO, the organization of professional educators, sent care packages to Marines in Iraq last year and intends to do so again, said organization member Jo Shanholtzer, of Hailey.

"This call-up of Idaho National Guard members will complete the most extensive mobilization of Idaho's National Guard for overseas military deployment in our state's history," Gov. Dirk Kempthorne said in a prepared statement. "They know they will be doing historic work in a place that desperately needs their help. It's possible these men and women could be away from home for up to two years."

The first wave of soldiers will mobilize June 7 at their local armories, and begin training at Fort Bliss, by June 10. The second, larger wave incorporating the rest of the brigade will mobilize June 28, and arrive at Fort Bliss by July 1.

Originally 2,600 of an estimated 3,500 guard troops were to come from Idaho. The numbers have been adjusted downward to include 2,000 Idahoans.

The governor’s office clarified over the weekend that the reconfiguration of the guard was due in part to a modification of eligibility requirements, which changed the number of soldiers who will receive deployment orders.

Originally an armored tank brigade, the troops have been receiving additional training to providing stability and support for Operation Iraqi Freedom once command over the troops is taken over by the U.S. Army at Fort Bliss.

The new tasks could include civil engineering support and guidance for local police and government officials, but combat operations are always a possibility, Marsano said.

The Idaho Guard unit specializes in armored vehicle-based combat. Taking the equipment will enable the guard to utilize the equipment their combat training if necessary, Marsano said.

"Perhaps they’ll be working to rebuild the infrastructure of that country at 10 in the morning, but by noon, they may find themselves responding to an insurgency operation and will have to use traditional military methods," he said. "The package we’re sending allows for all of that."

The balance of the 4,300 soldiers to be integrated into the Idaho Guard hail from Oregon, Utah, Montana, North Dakota, Pennsylvania and New Jersey

"I hope every Idahoan will join me in applauding these fine soldiers for their dedication to service to our country," Kempthorne said in his statement. "Many others — family members, employers, and others — also are making significant sacrifices in the face of this mobilization."


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