Vermont National Guard notified of 2021 deployment

BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) The Vermont National Guard has received notification for another large scale deployment in 2021 that will include units from New Hampshire and surrounding states.

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"We have one of the most-ready brigades in the National Guard," said Vermont National Guard Brig. Gen. Greg Knight.

And the 86th Brigade-- made up of soldiers from Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Connecticut, and Colorado-- just got notified it's nearly certain to deploy in the spring or early summer of 2021.

Reporter Darren Perron: How many Guard members are we talking?
Brig. Gen. Greg Knight: Twenty-five hundred.
Darren Perron: So, 40 percent of the brigade is in Vermont. If you do the math that's hundreds of Vermonters.
Brig. Gen. Greg Knight: That's a certainty, yes.

Secrecy surrounds the likely deployment for security reasons. The exact location and timing haven't been revealed by the Army. But Knight says the troops will be deployed in several locations under the European, Central and Africa Commands.

"It could be Afghanistan. A lot of places in Southwest Asia, Balkans, anywhere in Europe," he said.

The Vermont National Guard continuously prepares for deployments with rigorous training here. And in May they got specific combat training in simulated war zones at the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk in Louisiana.

Darren Perron: What kind of warfare will our troops see? Will they be in harm's way?
Brig. Gen. Greg Knight: It's hard to say... until we know what those missions will be, it's hard to calculate risk.

This upcoming mission would be the second deployment on Knight's watch. He was elected adjutant general while 70 Guard members were deployed to the Middle East for a year to provide air ambulance service and evacuations on the battlefield. Everyone made it home this spring.

Before that, more than 3,000 Vermont military members fought in the Global War on Terror in Iraq and Afghanistan. Forty were killed in combat and dozens were injured. And hundreds more suffered invisible wounds like post-traumatic stress disorder.

Darren Perron: What have we learned from those deployments that will be put in place for the folks who will be deploying on this next mission?
Brig. Gen. Greg Knight: Well, we take those lessons learned and we apply them to training. And all of our senior leaders and all the way down through NCO corps as you have new soldiers coming into the organization. That information gets passed on. Deployments are hard. They're hard on families and they're hard on soldiers and on airmen because, in my view, nobody comes back the same.

Knight says the Guard has more resources for returning vets now and more help for people struggling to return to their civilian lives. And he says that will again be a priority. He says the Guard will retain enough troops in Vermont in case of a state emergency.

Tune in to Channel 3's "You Can Quote Me" this Sunday at 7:30 a.m. to hear Darren Perron's entire interview with Brig. Gen. Knight.