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Washington unit may go to Iraq

The Washington National Guard’s largest unit is being put on alert for the possibility of another tour in Iraq.

Gov. Chris Gregoire said Friday afternoon she has received notice that the 81st Heavy Brigade Combat Team may be activated. Earlier in the day, the Department of Defense said the 81st is among guard units from seven states that are being scheduled for deployment next summer.

It will be deployed as a security force, the Pentagon announcement said.

“Security force brigades will be assigned tasks which will assure freedom of movement and continuity of operations in the country,” the Defense Department said in a prepared release. “Those tasks will include base defense and route security in Iraq and Kuwait.”

Gregoire commended the members of the unit, many of whom have served a one-year tour in Iraq.

“While there is no guarantee that a mobilization order will be received – alert orders are occasionally rescinded – I know that our citizen soldiers are committed, well-trained and ready to answer the call of duty for the state of Washington or for our nation,” she said in a news release.

The 4,000-person unit was previously called up in late 2003, and some were in Iraq through the spring of 2005 as the largest call-up of the Washington Guard since World War II. Nine members of the 81st were killed during that deployment.

The 81st has companies and detachments around the state. During the previous deployment, about 350 men and women from Guard units in the Spokane area were called up to active duty.


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