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Guard Trains for Mission

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South Burlington, Vermont - October 26, 2009

The first group of Vermont guardsman are in Louisiana, training for their upcoming mission to Afghanistan. It's a mission with many unknowns as the military and political landscape continues to shift.

You can't quite call this a deployment yet because the Vermont Guard soldiers who departed on Sunday for advanced training in Louisiana are due back for Thanksgiving before they begin their deployment. Still, from the soldier's point of view, this had the feel of something big.

"I guess I'm kind of nervous, anxious at the same time, you know, because I don't really know what to expect, seeing as how it is my first deployment," said Specialist Michael Balch of the Vermont Army National Guard.

Most of the men and women in the Vermont Army Guard have been deployed before to Iraq or Afghanistan, some as many as three or four times. And in between, they have trained, such as with a mock Afghan village, a course based on the experience of the Vermonters who have been there for real.

Still, Vermont Adjutant General Michael Dubie says the Vermonters don't know a lot about their impending mission, other than they will train Afghan national forces.

"Normally, we know exactly what we're going to be doing. And we know at the soldier level they will be doing soldier skills and mentoring and training with their counterparts from Afghanistan," said Dubie.

The Vermont National Guard has benefited from an influx of brand new equipment and money resources largely due to the state's congressional delegation. As a result, they stand ready for whatever comes, knowing that the overall national policy around Afghanistan remains to be totally defined.

"The structure is so dynamic because there are so many changes being made with General McChrystal and then below him, General Rodriguez. But we still haven't heard from the president. So we expect things to continue to change and we'll be ready to execute any mission that we're assigned," said Dubie.

The Guard says it has taken eighteen months to prepare for this big deployment, an unprecedented effort. And although the president has yet to spell out the larger scope of this operation, the Guard says it is as well prepared as it can be for Mission Afghanistan.

Andy Potter - WCAX News

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