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North Idaho troops likely headed to Iraq

Army National Guard members in North Idaho likely will head to Iraq next year.

About 3,500 citizen soldiers from Idaho, Montana and Oregon have been told to prepare for a possible mobilization lasting about 12 months, including stateside refresher training. About 2,400 are from Idaho, including 400 from Post Falls, Sandpoint, Bonners Ferry and Lewiston.

The deployment alert was issued this past week to the Idaho National Guard’s 116th Cavalry Brigade Combat Team.

The team’s primary wartime mission would be to provide battlefield commanders with armored reconnaissance, tanks, heavy artillery, logistics support and personnel, said Lt. Col. Tim Marsano, spokesman for the Idaho Guard.

The 116th returned in 2005 from a full-scale deployment that lasted 17 months between training at U.S. bases and service in Iraq.

The 2010 deployment would differ from the one in 2004 in that the 145th Brigade Support Battalion that takes in Lewiston, Post Falls, Bonners Ferry and Sandpoint are included, but soldiers from the 126th Engineer Company at Moscow, Grangeville and Orofino are not.

The alert is not a guarantee the 116th will go, or that it won’t be deployed later, Marsano said.

“It’s very preliminary and sometimes mobilization orders come after alert notifications and sometimes they don’t,” he said.

Since the 116th’s last deployment to Iraq, the role of the North Idaho companies has changed from combat engineers to transportation and other support services.

If the 116th is mobilized, it could be among the last U.S. troops in Iraq. The most recent announcements indicate troops will be out of the country by the end of 2011.

Marsano said Gov. Butch Otter was notified of the alert status Friday morning by the Department of Defense. The Pentagon instructed those affected to begin putting their personal, financial and family affairs in order.

Maj. Gen. Larry Lafrenz, Idaho adjutant general, said soldiers should be prepared for a one-year mobilization if activated.