Out-of-state units will stay home
Deployment concerns Samoan governor
instead of coming to the Big Isle
Call-up affects schools -- and kids
The February deployment of the Hawaii Army National Guard's combat brigade to Iraq has forced planners to alter this year's active-duty training at the Big Island's Pohakuloa Training Area.
Initially, the 3,100 citizen-soldiers -- including Guardsmen and Army reservists from California, Oregon, Saipan, Guam and American Samoa -- of the 29th Infantry Brigade were supposed to report to the training area next Friday. The last time the brigade trained together with all of its out-of-state units was five years ago at Fort Polk, La.
Now, only 500 members based on the Big Island will train at Pohakuloa.
Maj. Chuck Anthony, Hawaii National Guard spokesman, acknowledged that "the training was altered to face the changing real-world events."
Almost all of the 3,100 soldiers will remain at their home stations and work on pre-deployment issues, including briefings, updating necessary Army forms -- including wills and next-of-kin notification cards -- and preliminary medical checks, Anthony said.
Also, the nearly 400 soldiers of the brigade's 1st Battalion, 487th Field Artillery, will undergo infantry training at Bellows Air Force Station, Anthony said, "because they are not going over as an artillery unit."
Master Sgt. Jeff Clayton, spokesman for the Washington Army National Guard, said the 81st Enhanced Brigade, which the 29th Brigade will replace in Iraq, underwent a similar change.
"The 81st sent to Iraq two tank battalions, one infantry battalion and one field artillery battalion," Clayton said, "and they were all re-missioned to the infantry."
Clayton said the 81st Brigade, which is based at Camp Murray at Fort Lewis, Wash., was mobilized on Nov. 15 and moved into the Fort Lewis training area by the end of the month, where it stayed until mid-February.
At that point, the 81st Brigade was sent to the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., to undergo desert training. For the 29th Infantry Brigade, its advanced infantry training will probably take place at the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, La.
"The unit moved out to Kuwait on March 15," Clayton said. It was the Washington Army National Guard's largest deployment since World War II.
Army and Hawaii Army National Guard planners are still trying to determine where the 29th Brigade will have its pre-deployment training. Fort Bliss in Texas is one possible site. The Hawaii soldiers have to go to the mainland for pre-deployment training because Schofield Barracks, with more than 10,000 Tropic Lightning soldiers in Afghanistan or Iraq, does not have soldiers to support them.
In Iraq the 81st Brigade now has an infantry battalion at Forward Operating Base Gunner in Al Taji, conducting base security under control of the 1st Cavalry Division. One of its armored battalions is conducting base security at Camp Victory South near Baghdad, while the California battalions are in three locations south of Baghdad, providing security for main supply routes under Combined Joint Task Force 7.
Clayton said one of the 81st artillery batteries was deployed to Saudi Arabia to provide base security. There are also Washington Guard soldiers at Camp Arifjan and Camp Doha in Kuwait.
He said soldiers in Kuwait provide convoy security for troops moving out of Kuwait to Baghdad.
Other 81st Brigade soldiers are assigned to Logistic Support Area Anaconda in Balad, north of Baghdad, while the Minnesota unit is providing air defense cover at Baghdad International Airport.
Four members of the 81st Brigade have been killed in action.
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Mass deployment concerns
PAGO PAGO, American Samoa >> American Samoa Gov. Togiola T.A. Tulafono says he is concerned that all of the Army reservists living in the U.S. territory could be deployed to Iraq at the same time.
"Such a deployment, no doubt, will have very serious social and economic impact on the families, the people and the territory," Tulafono said yesterday after the announcement that more than 3,100 civilian soldiers from the Pacific, including about 200 from American Samoa, will be deployed to Iraq early next year.
The deployment includes 2,000 citizen soldiers from Hawaii and more than 1,100 others in units of the same infantry brigade based in California, Oregon, Guam, Saipan and American Samoa.
Tulafono said having all of the reservists based in one place deployed abroad at the same time is "inconsistent with announced policy decisions regarding homeland security needs."
The governor of the U.S. territory, 7,000 miles from Washington, D.C., has written Les Brownlee, acting Army secretary, to clarify whether the alerts issued to all units in American Samoa means that all Reserve soldiers based in the territory will be going to the Middle East at the same time.
"If so, I am asking that they modify that policy to allow for partial deployments," Tulafono said. "It will be a very unusual thing to have 100 percent of troops located in one place being deployed in the same period of time."
He said the territory's government, as well as family members and the community, would suffer.
"While in numbers it may seem insignificant to a small community such as ours, its impact will be profound because of the strain to the families, to the work force and the services to be provided to our people," he said.
The 200 reservists had been set to travel to Honolulu later this month for their regular annual training, which will now focus on preparations for Iraq, said Brig. Gen. John Ma in Honolulu.
Full training arrangements for the Pacific soldiers have not yet been announced, but they are expected to undergo about four months of intensive training before going to Iraq.
After the trip to Hawaii, Ma said, the soldiers will return to Pago Pago and await the mobilization order.
He said traditional Samoan farewells will be planned for the troops when they leave for Iraq.
Meanwhile, American Samoa's delegate to Congress, Rep. Eni H. Faleomavaega, a Democrat, said: "My heart goes out to parents, wives and children of our soldiers. This is the ultimate sacrifice for our men and women in uniform."
He said that while American Samoa is putting more than its share of troops into trouble spots, they are prepared for service in Iraq.