October 3, 2007 Edition

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39th begins training for deployment

1st Sgt. Charles Cagle (left) of Hoxie and 1st Sgt. Cully Hastings, whose hometown is Bradford, prepared to depart Monday morning for Fort Chaffee with other members of Company A 2nd Battalion 153rd Infantry in Walnut Ridge. Company A is part of the Arkansas National Guard's 39th Brigade that has begun 90 days of pre-mobilization training.
TD Photo ~ John Bland

On Monday, approximately 3,000 Arkansas soldiers reported to their local armories for military duty in preparation for deployment to Iraq with the Arkansas National Guard's 39th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.

Company A 2nd Battalion 153rd Infantry, located in Walnut Ridge, is among those being called to active duty. Soldiers left Robert Armory Monday morning for Fort Chaffee, where they will spend two weeks.

"In January of this year, a change in the Department of Defense mobilization policy resulted in the shift of a large portion of pre-mobilization training under the responsibility of the individual states," Maj. Gen. William D. Wofford, the adjutant general of Arkansas, said.

"When the 39th Brigade received its alert for a second mobilization in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the Arkansas Guard immediately went to work on identifying deployable personnel and building a pre-mobilization plan to prepare these men and women."

Although the troops were notified of this training timeline several weeks ago, Wofford said there has been a lot of back and forth conversation and media coverage on the issue of whether or not the Department of Defense would approve funding for this pre-mobilization training plan.

"Bottom line is that the 90-day pre-mobilization training program will begin for the 39th Brigade on Oct. 1 as planned," Wofford said. "We have planned for this based on having the complete support of Gov. Mike Beebe and our military chain of command."

The final approval was handed down by the office of the Secretary of Defense last week.

The 39th's soldiers will spend time training at their home armories, at Camp Robinson and at Fort Chaffee over the next three months.

When the local unit returns from Fort Chaffee on Oct. 15, they will spend a week training in Walnut Ridge before traveling to Camp Robinson for two weeks, and then return to Walnut Ridge once more.

"This effort will ensure the readiness of these soldiers through home station training, while minimizing time away from family," Wofford said. "The other option to complete the required training and preparations consisted of multiple extended weekend drills and annual training periods, which was simply not reasonable, due to the fact that our soldiers have civilian employers.

"Many of these employers have expressed their desire to support their troops, but they simply can not manage a business if they have to endure multiple absences due to military training. They don't want to lose their employees at all, but if they have to, that absence needs to be a single window of time so they can hire a replacement in the meantime. With that being said, the 90 day pre-mobilization model was developed."

Soldiers will receive a liberal leave during the December holiday season to allow even more time with family prior to departure to the brigade's mobilization station in early January. After the completion of the initial 65 days of the pre-mobilization training, soldiers may opt to be released from active duty orders from Dec.5-31 if necessary for personal or family reasons. Those choosing to do so must complete the pre-mobilization training requirements prior to the brigade's mobilization date.

1st Sgt. Charles Cagle, a member of the local unit said each soldier must be proficient in 215 warrior training tasks prior to deployment. Examples include first aid, communications and individuals weapons.

This will be the third deployment for Cagle, who had to return early from the unit's last mission after suffering a heart attack. He said he is healthier now than he was before the attack and he is ready to return with his unit.

"It's my job," he said. "This is what I do. We proudly do it."

The local unit also expects to spend four to eight weeks at Camp Shelby in Mississippi, which will be its mobilization station prior to leaving for Iraq.

Wofford said the support of the entire state for soldiers and their families has been tremendous.

"On behalf of our soldiers, we ask for that continued support," he said. "which will allow these 3,200 men and women to focus on their mission and return home safely at its end."

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