Local Guard troops could be deployed
In its largest deployment since World War II, the Illinois National Guard announced Friday that 2,700 soldiers were given notice they could go to Afghanistan next summer.
Members from the 33rd Brigade Combat Team got the word Thursday evening and Friday morning they could be among the units who deploy. The exact number of soldiers or the specific units have not been determined, said Col. Alicia Tate-Nadeau, the Guard’s chief spokeswoman.
Formed two years ago as part of the U.S. Army’s transformation from a Cold War machine designed for large scale battles into a force able to quickly respond to lower intensity conflicts, the 33rd BCT is a self-contained unit which has all the components needed for a deployment, Tate-Nadeau said.
Among the units assigned to the 33rd are Company B, 33rd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, based in Bloomington and the 106th Cavalry Squadron in Kewanee. Other units are spread throughout the state. The brigade itself is headquartered in Urbana.
The soldiers will be part of Task Force Phoenix, an ongoing effort in its sixth reincarnation, to train Afghan security forces. The Guard, from various states, have been deployed in all but one of the task force’s cycles. Soldiers from Illinois are relieving Guard members from South Carolina, said Air Force Lt. Col. Todd Vician, a Defense Department spokesman.
Earlier this week, the Pentagon announced the planned deployment of eight Guard brigades, or BCTs, to either Iraq or Afghanistan. Among the states mentioned were North Carolina, Oklahoma, Illinois and Hawaii.
Vician confirmed only the 33rd was going to Afghanistan. The Defense Department has come to use more and more National Guard soldiers as a way to ease the stress of multiple deployments on the active duty military.
Tate-Nadeau said the soldiers would deploy for about a year, with training starting by mid- to late-summer. Different from past deployments, the Guard is allowing units to train and then "validate" — prove they are ready — at home rather than including that training time as part of their deployment.
"It is all in an effort to keep the soldiers back here with their family and with their employer as long as possible," she said.
Typically, training and validation can take up to six months.
Guard officials stressed that soldiers who recently returned from a deployment, such as units based in Mattoon and Springfield, are not likely go to on this new mission, though they are part of the 33rd BCT. Rather, the idea is to rely more on volunteers and those who haven’t gone before.
One Guard spokeswoman said the Army wants to give its citizen-soldiers at least three to four years between deployments.
Andy Kravetz can be reached at (309) 686-3283 or email@example.com.