Posted by Jeff Rivenbark - email
Ft. Irwin, CA (WBTV) - North Carolina's National Guard Combat Brigade is heading back to Iraq. The 30th Heavy Separate brigade already has spent one tour of duty there, back in 2004. Now, the 4,000+ combat team will be among the last combat brigades sent to the front lines as America begins its withdrawal in the coming months.
For the past two weeks, the soldiers have been working on their combat tactics at the National Training Center in the Mojave Desert at Fort Irwin, California. The conditions are similar to what they will find in Iraq and army trainers have set up villages to replicate what they will run into. "It is very realistic" says one soldier who has already spent two tours of duty in Iraq. The goal is to make mistakes in training, not in Iraq.
The soldiers are from units across the state, including Charlotte, Monroe, Belmont, Lincolnton, Hickory, and more. They are giving up civilian jobs and civilian life to answer the call to duty. For some, it will mean a drastic cut in pay. But others say the economy had hit their civilian jobs hard. Robert Green from Charlotte says getting activated has "kept his family going" financially. Others echo that sentiment.
The soldiers say they are better prepared for this deployment because of the advances made in training. But they still worry about their families, and say they will miss some special events while they are gone.
The nerves are building, they say, as their departure date draws near.
They expect to have "boots on the ground," as they call it, in Iraq by the end of April.