FEBRUARY 22, 2007 - Posted at 11:37 a.m. CST
LITTLE ROCK, AR - The Arkansas National Guard's 39th Infantry Brigade is training for a new deployment to Iraq, but a spokesman said today that it is too early to determine whether the soliders will ship out next year instead of 2009.
Major Chris Heathscott says there are too many variables to consider when any mobilization would occur. Heathscott says, "All we know at this point is we are preparing for the potential of mobilization."
The 3,400 members of the 39th were mobilized for 18 months, a year of which was spent in Iraq, mainly in 2004. Some members of the unit were deployed to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and later to support U.S. border patrols.
Heathscott says the brigade would need to build up its supplies in advance of a deployment. At the moment, it is short 600 rifles. But he says the Army's top priority is to supply soldiers already on the ground, followed by those on the verge of deployment. Because it does not have a mobilization order, he says the 39th is farther down on the list.
Last month, the Pentagon abandoned its limit on time a citizen-soldier can be required to serve on active duty.
Members of the Guard combat brigade that have served in Iraq in recent years spent 18 months on active duty, about six months in pre-deployment training in the United States, followed by about 12 months in Iraq. Under the old policy, they could not be sent back to Iraq because their cumulative time on active duty would exceed 24 months. Now that cumulative limit has been lifted, giving the Pentagon more flexibility.