LITTLE ROCK, AR - Senator Mark Pryor says Arkansas' 39th Infantry Brigade has most of the equipment it needs for a possible second deployment to Iraq, but health concerns could disqualify some of its soldiers from service.
Pryor said health concerns ranging from dental problems to bad backs kept a number of soldiers in Arkansas when the brigade left for an 18-month deployment in 2004. Now, Pryor said Guard leaders want to make sure soldiers can be fit for battle by October, when the 39th could receive orders for another deployment.
While some disqualifications came from injuries, Pryor said officials found some soldiers in the last deployment had problems that routine medical checkups could have solved ahead of time. Pryor said the federal government bears the responsibility in caring for National Guard soldiers when their private insurance or lack of it affects their health.
This week, officers in 11 Arkansas National Guard units not part of the 39th received notice they could be activated to go along with the 39th to Iraq. Major General Bill Wofford, Arkansas adjutant general and commander of the state guard, said it would be impossible for the 39th to meet the required troop level, about 3,200 soldiers, without help. Wofford said some of the shortfall was attributable to soldiers' health problems.