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Changing Vt. Guard Mission

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Colchester, Vermont - December 4, 2009

Vermont's National Guard Commander says the guard's upcoming mission in Afghanistan is still evolving but could involve more combat. Maj. Gen. Michael Dubie made the comments Friday as 1,500 Vermont guard soldiers await deployment in Afghanistan within three months.

More than 700 Vermont guard soldiers will assemble at Camp Johnson over the next week to ship out for final training in Indiana for duty in Afghanistan. Eight-hundred more will follow and they are all scheduled to be in Afghanistan by early March, but their exact mission is now uncertain.

This week, President Obama announced his plan to surge U.S. forces in Afghanistan in the first part of 2010. The plan had important implications for the 1,500 Vermont guard soldiers heading to Afghanistan.

"I think that the surge that the president talked about coincidentally or fortuitously for us some of them will arrive the same time our soldiers do," Gen. Dubie said. "So what it means is that we may have a slight mission change."

For more than a year the Vermont guard members have been preparing for their mission to train Afghanistan's police and army.

But now U.S. troops will more aggressively seek out Taliban and al-Qaida forces and Dubie says the guard mission could now require more combat; possibly to protect villages in areas where the Taliban has recently increased its attacks and strength.

"We understand that the situation, let's be honest, is, has been going the wrong way," Dubie said. "That's why the president has made some very tough decisions."

Dubie is confident the Vermont troops are fully prepared whatever the mission.

"It's gonna be difficult," he said. "It's going to be filled with challenges. But if anyone's up to the task, it's the members of the Vermont National Guard."

Some 350 of the Vermont guard troops will leave for Indiana on Sunday, to be followed by 350 next Friday.

Brian Joyce - WCAX News

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