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Idaho’s 116th could go back to Iraq

BOISE - When the Idaho National Guard’s 116th Cavalry Brigade Combat Team deployed to Iraq in 2004, it was the largest deployment of any Idaho unit since World War II. Now, the same unit has gotten preliminary word that it could be going back to Iraq in 2010.

Maj. Gen. Larry LaFrenz passed the word to state lawmakers this morning during the budget hearing on the state’s military division.

Lt. Col. Tim Marsano, Idaho National Guard spokesman, said, “It’s penciled in, but it’s definitely not in any ink form yet.”

A Pentagon working model that gives troops an early heads-up that they could be called showed the 2010 deployment, which would likely be for 12 months, down from the 18-month 2004-2005 deployment.

The 116th includes “more than 4,000 citizen-soldiers, and about half are from Idaho,” Marsano said. The rest are mostly for Montana and Oregon.

If the unit is deployed again, it could be many of the same men and women going for a second time, Marsano said, because many have re-enlisted. That gives the unit enviable experience, he said.

Overall, LaFrenz told lawmakers that enlistments and re-enlistments are high in Idaho.

Said Marsano, “For both new enlistments and re-enlistments, we are near the top of the page nationally.”