Iowa National Guard prepare soldiers for duty - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports

Iowa National Guard prepare soldiers for duty


SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KTIV) -- The countdown is on for around 2,700 Iowans, and 500 Nebraskans, serving in the Second Brigade Combat Team. In late July, they'll be part of the Iowa National Guard's largest deployment since World War II.

Tuesday night, top Guard leaders prepared soldiers, and their loved ones, for the upcoming mission to Afghanistan.

Leaders from the Iowa National Guard know how difficult a year-long deployment can be for soldiers and their families. That's why, they say, they're opening the lines of communication early, and keeping them open.

Staying in touch with soldiers was one of the biggest concerns at the town-hall style meeting. Experts from several areas within the guard were on hand to answer questions about phone calls, e-mails, even care packages.

When you're on another continent, keeping in contact with a loved one is essential on both ends, so soldiers and their family members say they appreciate the early preparations.

"This will be my third deployment and this is the first time I've ever had a meeting like this where families and everybody can get out and get the information firsthand," says Sgt. Steven Dirks of the 168th Infantry.

"We're trying to plan for everything. We have a two year old son too, so that's going to be really hard for her to be gone," says John Finken, whose wife will serve in Afghanistan.

In past missions, tours of duty have lingered several extra months. But, one thing Guard leaders say families can count on this time around is a twelve-month deployment, and most likely, no longer.

Those twelve months include training at Camp Shelby in Mississippi, service in Afghanistan, and travel back to the US.

Colonel Greg Hapgood of the Iowa National Guard says, "We're in a position today that we weren't several years ago, that we can really, with some accuracy, predict that when a soldier leaves -- twelve months from then, they will return home."

In June, troops from the battalion will report for training at Camp Ripley, in Minnesota. Then, deployments begin, starting on July 29. The guard will stagger battalions' start dates about every other day.

As for what the soldiers will be doing in Afghanistan, Col. Hapgood says that's yet to be determined. He says these troops are well-rounded, and could be assigned to everything from humanitarian missions, to combat.

Hapgood says they hope to have these soldiers back with their families by the end of July, 2011.

Online Reporter: Zach Tecklenburg

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