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Guardsmen On Alert For Possible Deployment To Iraq

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CLINTON, N.C. — A North Carolina National Guard unit is on alert to possibly replace troops in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The 30th Heavy Separate Brigade is based out of Clinton. The unit could leave as early as February and be gone for a whole year.

From 62 days a year on Guard duty to a possible 365, Ben Bagwell soon could turn in his hard hat for an army helmet.

The project manager is one of 4,500 North Carolina National Guardsmen on alert to go full-time in Iraq. Just 27 days ago, he became a new dad.

"It will be tough on my wife, Patrice," Bagwell said. "But she's a strong woman, and we can get through the challenges we face."

Over the weekend, the Army announced the 30th Heavy Separate Brigade likley will be part of the ongoing mission in Iraq. Members of the Armor unit say they have been training for the call.

About 200 Guardsmen went to Bosnia, but if the entire brigade is sent to Iraq, it will be the Guard's largest deployment since World War II.

At Fort Bragg, maintenance is under way to fix combat vehicles just back from training. The equipment needs to be ready.

Bagwell said that, as a true Patriot, he is ready -- even if he never expected a deployment like this.

"It will be a change in our everyday lives," he said. "But I think it will be fine."

The 30th Heavy Separate Brigade is the largest in the North Carolina National Guard.


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