- The Washington Times - Monday, March 1, 2004

ASSOCIATED PRESS

About 18,000 National Guard soldiers from four major units have been placed on alert for likely deployment to Iraq late this year or in early 2005, the Pentagon announced yesterday.

The Guardsmen will be part of a larger force, probably to total about 100,000 active-duty and Reserve troops, that is expected to take over for the contingent just beginning a one-year tour in Iraq.

The Guard units alerted are the 42nd Infantry Division headquarters from the New York National Guard, the 256th Infantry Brigade from Louisiana, the 116th Cavalry Brigade from Idaho and Oregon and the 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment from Tennessee.

They will be mobilized in the next several months for training, the Pentagon said.

The length of their mobilization depends on how much training they need as well as the requirements of Central Command chief Gen. John Abizaid, who manages the Iraq operation.

The Pentagon said additional Guard forces will be alerted and mobilized for Iraq duty.

The 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment from Tennessee has about 4,500 members, and 4,000 of them have been placed on alert, according to Randy Harris, spokesman for the Tennessee Army National Guard.

A more detailed breakdown of the units affected in those states was not available.

The alerts were issued well in advance to give the Guard members adequate time to prepare for the likelihood of being mobilized and sent to Iraq for 12-month tours. Many Guardsmen and some members of Congress complained that earlier mobilizations for Iraq came with little advance notice.

The Pentagon is relying heavily upon Guard and Reserve troops in Iraq. Three Guard brigades — from Arkansas, North Carolina and Washington state — are part of the current troop rotation, which is in midcourse.

The active-duty units tapped for the 2005 rotation have not been publicly identified.

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