11/11/07 — National Guard unit gets word on orders to deploy

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National Guard unit gets word on orders to deploy

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on November 11, 2007 2:19 AM

More than three years ago, members of the National Guard's 230th Brigade Support Battalion were in Iraq assisting the U.S. Army's 1st Infantry Division.

Now, it looks as if they might be going back to the desert.

Maj. William Richards, the group's second-in-command, said the 230th and all other battalions that fall under the 30th Brigade Combat Team are currently on alert and might be called back to action as soon as 2009.

"The 30th Brigade has been alerted for possible mobilization," he said. "Now, that doesn't mean we are going to go, but we're in the window."

Should formal orders come down, Richards said it is not yet clear whether 230th assets would deploy to Iraq or Afghanistan.

But the tasking, he added, would likely be the same in both locations -- "full-spectrum operations."

That means their duties would range from water purification and distribution of medical assistance to combat missions.

"Do I know what those missions will be? No," Richards said. "It could be convoy and supplies. It might be that some of our soldiers will be clearing out insurgents. You just don't know."

During their 2004 deployment, members of the 230th wore many hats.

Richards expects that one of them, the role of "rebuilder," would be undertaken again should they return to theater.

"That's what we did the last time," he said. "We spent a lot of time and effort rebuilding schools, churches -- things like that."

But men and women would not be the only assets from Goldsboro's National Guard Armory sent to war.

Richards said vehicles and equipment would make the trip, too.

"Brigade-wide, you're probably talking about 1,200 to 1,700 vehicles," he said.

Despite the alert, members of the 230th are taking a "business as usual" approach -- keeping training and other events on their typical schedules.

"Our rule of thumb for all forces is we train as we fight," Richards said. "We're always training for missions over there."

Still, he admits that the alert brings with it possibilities that might not have been entertained before.

"The 30th would have some area of land given to them in Iraq or Afghanistan and it would be fairly significant," Richards said. "If you look at the United States and split it into maybe 10 or 12 different states, we would actually have a state of our own that we would do everything in.

"We would be the military advisers for that entire area," he added. "We would be the ones providing security and carrying out all the missions."

The 30th BCT has more than 4,000 members statewide and includes a unit in West Virginia, also.

Locally, Richards estimates that between 400 and 500 troops would deploy.

And while the notion of going to war is always hard on those in uniform and their families, having notice is good.

"A lot of our soldiers are citizen-soldiers. They have employers and families," he said. "Obviously, the more time you give a soldier to prepare his family and his employer, that creates stability."

And he should know.

After all, the same is true for him -- even if he has served for more than 20 years.

But for Richards, knowing that he might soon be called on to help lead the 400-plus 230th is a call he will gladly answer -- and one he takes seriously.

"I don't want to be away from my family, obviously, but I have been doing this for 23 years, so obviously, I have some commitments here -- making sure that the folks under me are taken care of," he said. "So if we do go, making sure the right things get done so I can bring them home to their families, that's an important part of my mission."

Richards said it is still unclear when -- or if -- deployment orders will come down in 2009.

But if they do, he is confident that the men and women of the 230th would be ready for a fight.

"Is he a welder? A plumber? An electrician? That is one important thing we bring to the table: All these different skill sets that the active-duty might not have," he said. "So we're very proud of our little organization. You can't find a better group of gentlemen and ladies."