Though the numbers were down in calendar year 2008 for deploying Alabama Army National Guard units, 2009 will see a dramatic increase in activated units.
In 2008, two companies, three teams and a detachment with an aggregate strength of just over 300 personnel were mobilized. This year the Alabama Army Guard has more than 1,800 personnel in two battalion headquarters units, nine companies, one detachment and one embedded training team scheduled to deploy.
About 20 members of the 1207th Quartermaster Detachment (Water Distribution) from Goodwater returned home in February after nearly a year in Iraq. An 11-member team from the 614th EOD Company will return home to Daleville in April after spending nearly a year in Kosovo doing explosive ordnance disposal missions.
A 16-man embedded training team (ETT) with Guard members from across the state will return to Montgomery in late May. Some 75 members of the 128th Medical Company, a ground ambulance unit from Ashland, are currently scheduled to return home in August 2009.
The last Alabama Guard unit to deploy to Iraq in 2008 was the 158th Maintenance Company from Tallassee and Tuskegee, which mobilized in late October 2008. Approximatly 190 members of the unit are working at two locations in Iraq providing surface maintenance support to coalition forces.
Maj. Gen. Abner C. Blalock, adjutant general of the Alabama National Guard, praised the men and women of the Alabama National Guard for their service in the global war on terror.
"Alabama National Guard Soldiers and Airmen continue to operate in two foreign theaters and are performing magnificently," Blalock said. "As our deployed numbers increase in 2009, we will continue to ensure our Soldiers and Airmen are well prepared and technically and tactically competent."
The 166th Engineer Company from Winfield and Vernon mobilized late last week with some 160 members and will depart for Camp Atterbury, Ind. tomorrow. The 166th is the first unit from the 877th Engineer Battalion scheduled to deploy to Afghanistan this year. The unit will be to construct and maintain base camp facilities while also assisting the Afghan people with improvement of their infrastructure.
A 16-member Embedded Training Team will deploy to Afghanistan in March where they will train and mentor Afghan Army members. The team members will provide advice and assistance in their particular military job specialty to the Afghans.
In April 2009, two chemical units will deploy to Kuwait where they will perform security force missions. The 151st Chemical Battalion from Gadsden, with some 60 members, will command and control security forces in their area of operations. About 90 members from the 1343rd Chemical Company in Fort Payne will provide base camp, route and convoy security missions.
Three more units from the 877th Engineer Battalion will activate in May for service in Afghanistan. The Headquarters Company of the 877th from Hamilton will deploy approximately 170 members to provide command and control to units that are providing support to coalition forces and the Afghan people.
The 168th Engineer Company from Fayette and Jasper is a horizontal construction company with nearly 150 members. The unit will perform construction, repair and maintenance of roads, runways and other earth moving missions. The 14 members of the 1305th Survey and Design Team from Hamilton will support 877th missions by providing survey and construction design support.
The 2025th Transportation Company of Jacksonville with some 170 members will activate in late May for the unit's second extended tour of duty in the global war on terror. The unit will deploy provide heavy equipment transport support to coalition forces in Kuwait and Iraq.
Also in May, a four-member cell from the 115th Signal Battalion in Decatur activated to provide communications within Central Command's areas of responsibility.
June 2009 will see three more Alabama Army Guard units activating for service in Iraq. Headquarters, 203rd Military Police Battalion from Athens will activate approximately 140 personnel for command and control of MP units conducting missions at theater internment facilities.
Some 80 members of the 129th Medical Company of Centreville will provide health protections and ground evacuation to coalition forces in their area of operations. The 217th Military Police Company of Prattville will activate about more than 165 unit members who will provide military police support to coalition forces. They will also train, mentor and coach members of the Iraqi police force.
This will be the second extended deployment for the 217th MP Company. The unit was mobilized in August 2002 and augmented security forces at Fort McPherson, Fort Benning and Fort Gillem, Ga. Later, the unit went to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba where they guarded Taliban and Al-Qaeda prisoners until their release from active duty in July 2004 after 22 months on active duty.
In September 2009, Company B 1/169th Aviation from Birmingham will return to Afghanistan for a second time with their CH-47 Medium Lift Chinook Helicopters. The unit's 70 members will conduct a full spectrum of combat operations to include air assault and air movement operations of personnel, equipment and supplies.
The next Alabama Army Guard activations will come in October. One of these deployments will be a first when the 135th Expeditionary Sustainment Command from Homewood deploys more than 250 personnel in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The deployment will mark the first time an Alabama National Guard unit commanded by a general officer has deployed overseas since World War II.
The 441st Explosive Ordnance Disposal Battalion from Huntsville will mobilize some 30 members in late October for command and control of explosive ordnance disposal units in Iraq. Next, more than 75 members of the 1200th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion from Ashland will go on active duty in November and perform a command and control mission in Iraq.
The final activation for 2009 will be in December when some 170 members from the 2101st Transportation Company from Demopolis, Aliceville and Butler will mobilize to provide transportation support in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Blalock acknowledged that the role family members play during deployments directly affects the Guard member's performance. "I remain committed to ensuring family members of our deployed Soldiers and Airmen are prepared for the stresses of deployment and have access to assistance when required." Blalock said.
Mission requirements for all units are determined by on-site commanders. A troop list is developed and units assigned to perform these missions. All unit missions are subject to change based on the current conditions at the time the unit is mobilized.
At the end of 2008, some 14,000 members of the Alabama Army and Air National Guard had been mobilized in our nation's global war on terror. By the end of 2009, that number is scheduled to increase to nearly 16,000 members. Many Alabama Army Guard Soldiers and Air Guard Airmen have performed two or more tours on active duty during this time period.