Guard soldiers due to arrive in Mississippi Wednesday

12/07/05 12:00AM By Bob Kinzel
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(Host) The Vermont National Guard is getting ready to celebrate the homecoming of roughly 600 troops who have spent the last year in Kuwait.

The soldiers are expected to arrive at Camp Shelby, Mississippi tomorrow afternoon.

VPR's Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) Barring any last minute changes, a large portion of the Vermont National Guard contingent serving in the Middle East will be returning from their overseas service.

Approximately 600 soldiers, who've been involved in security operations in Kuwait, will be arriving in Camp Shelby, Mississippi. It's expected that they'll stay at the Camp for about a week before returning home to Vermont.

Guard Adjutant General Martha Rainville plans to be at Camp Shelby when the first of two charter planes carrying the troops touches down

(Rainville) "Knowing they're coming back is a real morale boost. And then being able to actually see them get off the plane, it sends chills down your spine when you see them get off the plane. I get emotional, I do, when they leave and I do when they come back, just because it is so important to them and what they've done is so extraordinary, in the way that they've answered their call to duty I think, deserves so much respect from all of us."

(Kinzel) While Rainville says she's very pleased that these troops have returned from their overseas assignment, she's still concerned about the approximately 500 Guard troops who are still stationed in a dangerous part of Iraq.

(Rainville) "It is never out of my mind that we have Green Mountain Boys in Ramadi and we have Green Mountain Boys throughout Iraq and Afghanistan too. We have about 40 soldiers there with Task Force Catamount. And they're doing important work. They're seeing a lot of progress being made. But they are, every day, facing the challenges and the risks inherent in being in that area."

(Kinzel) Over the course of the past few years, roughly 1,500 Vermont Guard soldiers have been called into duty in the Middle East. Twenty have died. Rainville doubts that there will be any additional deployments.

That's because the Vermont Guard will be one of the first groups that will be redesigned by the U.S. Army as part of a national military reorganization.

(Rainville) "I think there's a very good possibility that this is pretty much it for us because of a couple of things. We were in one of the later rotations, which is good. We have time to come back and reconstitute retrain and build units back up again. But we also are going into a major conversion with our force structure in Vermont."

(Kinzel) Rainville says the returning troops are expected to arrive in Vermont for a brief welcoming home ceremony at the end of next week.

For Vermont Public Radio I'm Bob Kinzel in Montpelier
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