Guard unit ordered to Kuwait next year
Hawaii Army National Guard's 29th Brigade Combat Team will be sent to Kuwait next summer, two years after returning from war duty in Iraq.
Official word of the mobilization alert for as many as about 2,000 isle citizen soldiers was expected to be made this afternoon by Maj. Gen. Bob Lee, who heads Hawaii's National Guard.
However, key family support groups and other Army National Guard members were informed yesterday about the pending Mideast mobilization, which will go into effect in July, according to a Guard soldier.
Until recently, Hawaii Guard officials had been expecting the next deployment to be to Bosnia in 2010.
While the citizen soldiers and their families began bracing themselves for the impending deployment, U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka complained that it was coming too soon after the last wartime duty, which ended in early 2006.
The Hawaii Democrat released a statement yesterday saying he was unhappy that the redeployment fell short of the National Guard Bureau's goal to keep combat deployments five years apart.
"We have asked the brave men and women in our National Guard to make great sacrifices in the service of this nation," Akaka said. "In return we need to make sure they receive sufficient periods of time to reconnect with their family and life between deployments."
Carrie Takenaka's husband, Chief Warrant Officer Owen Takenaka of the 29th Support Battalion, returned from Iraq in 2006 just as their 23-year-old son, Warrant Officer Craig Takenaka with Charlie Company, 193rd Aviation, went overseas.
"It's to be expected because they're soldiers," said Carrie Takenaka, who was head of a family support group during the first wave of deployments. "It's just so soon. Since it's the second time around, it'll be a little easier for families. I tell them just always be ready for changes, and the soldiers need our support right now. That's the most important thing."
The Takenakas learned about the possible deployment Wednesday night from reading the news online.
The pending mobilization was made public earlier this week by the Associated Press, which reported that Hawaii was among the states whose Army National Guard units would be placed on active duty. According to defense officials cited by the AP, seven of the units would deploy to Iraq, and one to Afghanistan. Altogether about 13,000 soldiers will be affected.
"I'm disappointed about it with it being so quick and us going back so soon," said Owen Takenaka, 50, a full-time worker with the National Guard for 30 years. "But it's not that I wasn't aware it would happen. I'm a soldier, so I'll do what I gotta do."
The 29th Brigade, which has three combat battalions, was supposed to deploy to Bosnia in 2010, giving it about five years to re-equip and retrain for its new mission.
But the latest mobilization order is necessary, Pentagon officials say, to maintain needed troop levels, ease some of the strain on the active-duty Army and provide security for ports, convoys and other installations.
Currently, one of the 29th Brigade's battalions -- the 600-member 1st Battalion, 158th Infantry -- is in Afghanistan near the Pakistani border and will not be released from active duty until early spring 2009. That could mean the 29th Brigade might have to deploy without it.
The 29th Brigade's other battalion -- the 100 Battalion, 442nd Infantry -- is part of the Army Reserve, and officials said last night that unit has not received any mobilization orders.
In July, Col. Bruce Oliveira, commander of the Hawaii brigade, told the Star-Bulletin the unit is "about 95 percent" of its authorized 1,910 soldiers for Hawaii.