Montana Guardsmen to be Deployed to Iraq

By Beacon Staff

BOISE, Idaho – More than 2,700 members of the Army National Guard in Idaho, Montana and Oregon will be sent to Iraq for a yearlong deployment this fall.

The members of the 116th Cavalry Brigade Combat Team will go to Camp Shelby, Miss., for about two months of training starting Sept. 17, before heading to Iraq for the remaining 10 months of the deployment, Col. Tim Marsano said.

About 1,500 of the soldiers are from Idaho.

The U.S. Department of Defense notified the Idaho National Guard last fall that as many as 3,500 guardsmen could be deployed to Iraq this year. The Pentagon has since decided it does not need that many soldiers from the 116th, Marsano said.

Many of the soldiers will mark their second deployment to Iraq. Among them is Col. Don Blunck, the brigade deputy commander. He first went to Iraq when the Idaho National Guard deployed for 18 months in late 2004.

“I think we are better prepared in that we know what to expect as this process goes along. Last time, we really didn’t know what the initial mobilization day was going to be like, what it was going to be like to move into Kuwait and then into Iraq,” Blunck said.

His family also is better equipped to deal with his absence, he said.

Still, all that readiness doesn’t necessarily lower the stress of a deployment, Blunck said.

“I still have to get into that mindset that I’m here to do a job and I’m not going to worry about what could happen to me,” he said. “It’s harder on family at home.”

Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter said the soldiers would represent the state well.

“With the help and understanding of friends, employers and other community members, I have no doubt our hometown heroes will succeed again,” Otter said.

Brig. General Gary Sayler, Idaho adjutant general, said support centers around the state will help family members of deployed soldiers cope with their absence.

Monday’s orders also affect Montana’s 163rd Cavalry Regiment and Company E of the 145th Forward Support Battalion. Once mobilized, the 145th and the 163rd will be attached to the 116th Cavalry Brigade Combat Team.

More than 500 soldiers from across Montana will be affected by the deployment, Montana Guard Lt. Dan Bushnell told the Helena Independent Record.

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