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Guard unit on alert for possible Iraq deployment

The Mississippi National Guard’s 155th Brigade Combat Team wasput on alert Monday for a possible second deployment to Iraq. The3,500-man brigade, which draws its manpower from 49 communitiesfrom the Gulf Coast to Tupelo, was last mobilized in June 2004 anddeployed to Iraq in 2005.

Brookhaven is one of those 49 communities. It is home toapproximately 100 members of Company E, 106th Brigade SupportBattalion, which is part of the 155th.

Company E spent 2005 in the Iraqi town of Iskandariyah, 22 milessouth of Baghdad.

The brigade’s alert status is a preparatory measure, with thedecision of actual deployment more than one year away.

“This is not a go-to-war order,” said guard spokesman Lt. Col.Tim Powell. “It’s an order to begin preparations and training inthe event that we do go to war.”

Powell said the brigade is always in a continuous state oftraining, but the training matrix will be stepped up in the comingmonths. He said the upcoming year and a half of training will besimilar to the training the 155th did at Camp Shelby in Hattiesburgafter its 2004 deployment order.

Powell said that being placed on alert so far in advance wouldgive the brigade an edge if it was ordered to deploy.

“Early notification gives the brigade priority on the Army’slist of available units,” Powell said. “It will have priority interms of dollars, training and new equipment and it will reduce thetime necessary at the mobilization station.”

Powell said the 155th left some of its equipment in country whenit returned from its 2005 Iraq deployment, but much of theequipment has already been replaced.

“They currently have an adequate amount of equipment availablefor training,” he said. “Any shortages will not affect thebrigade’s training matrix.”

From now until a decision on the brigade’s deployment, Powellsaid the guardsmen would proceed with “business as usual,” exceptthat weekend training trips to Camp Shelby would occur moreoften.

The expected date for the 155th’s deployment, if it is deployed,is around the summer of 2009. However, Powell pointed out that thepossibility exists for the brigade to be ordered to stand down bythat time.

“This is still one and one-half years away,” he said. “Thesituation in Iraq may not be what it is today. Violence is downconsiderably in Iraq, and we hope that trend continues.”

If the trend is broken, the 155th, along with the 41st BrigadeCombat Team from Oregon and the 32nd Brigade Combat Team fromWisconsin, will spend the next year and a half training forsecurity tasks such as guarding bases and protecting convoys inIraq and Kuwait.