- Associated Press - Thursday, July 16, 2015

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - The Arkansas National Guard said around 700 soldiers have been notified of possible deployment to Africa, while a much smaller group received word that it might be assigned to Cuba.

The deployments are tentatively scheduled between 2016 and 2017, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (http://bit.ly/1Jknfsf ) reported. Spokesman Lt. Col. Joel Lynch of the Arkansas National Guard cautioned that the plans are indefinite.

“We tell the soldiers, ‘Don’t sell your house, don’t quit college, don’t do any life-changing modifications,’ because it could change,” Lynch said. “But also, we’re letting them know something may happen so they can start thinking about it.”

The National Guard Bureau called on the 1st Battalion of the state Guard’s 39th Infantry Brigade to conduct operations in support of U.S. Africa Command’s mission in the Horn of Africa, which is a peninsula in the continent’s east region that includes the countries of Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia.

Media outlets reported last year that the U.S. was increasing its operations in the region following a 2013 attack at a Kenya shopping mall, which a Somalian extremist group had claimed responsibility.

A U.S. State Department spokesman released a Sunday statement that said the U.S. “remains committed to working with the Somali people, their government, and international partners to continue forward in progress, prosperity and stability.”

The National Guard Bureau notified the Arkansas Military Department last week that the battalion was needed for an unspecified mission in the region.

The bureau also called on Arkansas 15-person public affairs unit to serve as journalists and facilitate media visits at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, which contains a detainee facility.

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Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com

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