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More Vermonters Head Toward Afghan Deployment - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

More Vermonters Head Toward Afghan Deployment

Burlington, Vermont -- October 30, 2009

Hundreds of Vermont guardsmen were on the move today. They boarded planes at the guard base in South Burlington, bound for Fort Polk in Louisiana for training in advance of their mission to Afghanistan. About 600 members of the 86th Brigade Combat team flew out. 600 more will leave Saturday. Among them are three dozen members of an advance unit who were officially deployed this morning.

A small group of 38 formed up for what would be the first actual farewell in their deployment. They are members of the Brigade headquarters who will undergo the same training as the rest -- but then leave for Afghanistan without returning to Vermont.

In a few cases, the departing soldiers are women. Staff Sergeant Jamie Marshall will leave her husband behind to take care of the kids. "I think it's going to be a little difficult for me," she said, "but they will have their Dad and I think he probably has the tougher job, staying home with them."

National Guard Gen. Michael Dubie handed over the Green Mountain Boys battle flag to Col. Will Roy, who will command the Brigade in Afghanistan known as Task Force Phoenix. Roy's right-hand man is Brigade Command Sgt. Maj. Forest Blodgett, the ranking non-commissioned officer.  "I'm the senior NCO," he told Channel 3, "but I'll tell you I'm very fortunate to have the soldiers I have in the Brigade. The NCOs are just -- they just have so much talent. It's easy for me."

Their mission will be to imbed with Afghan forces and help bring security to the country. Political Scientist Gordon Robison of the University of Vermont is an expert on the Middle East. He says the mission is realistic, but won't be easy. "I think the question it raises is how much long-term political will do we have back on this side of the ocean," he said. "It's not necessarily a bad strategy, it might in fact be a incredibly good strategy. But it's something that if you're going to do it, you have to be really committed to stick at it for five, six, eight, ten years."

Other than the 38-member unit that formed up here this morning, the 1400 full deployment will be back briefly for Thanksgiving. But then they're gone for real on Mission Afghanistan.

Andy Potter -- WCAX News 

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