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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, August 12, 2003

Guard unit heads for duty in Afghanistan

By William Cole
Advertiser Military Writer

The last of about five C-17 transport planes are scheduled to leave Hickam Air Force Base this morning carrying Hawai'i Army National Guard soldiers deploying to Afghanistan for a six-month tour.

A Pentagon Web site said 62 members of Company B, 193rd Aviation are being deployed, along with such equipment as 5-ton trucks and heavy winches.

The helicopter maintenance soldiers, who were placed on active duty in July, will be attached to the 10th Mountain Division out of Fort Drum, N.Y.

Roselani Moniz of Wai'anae, 20, a supply specialist in the Guard and an inventory taker out of uniform, last month said she was "excited, I guess, for the experience — just being in a different country and seeing what it's really going to be like."

"I'm a little scared," said Moniz, who got engaged in May. "But I've got to go for it and give it the best I've got."

Soldiers yesterday said goodbye to family at Wheeler Army Airfield and left in buses for Hickam. The Hawai'i Army Guard has 14 CH-47 Chinook, eight Black Hawk and three OH-58 helicopters, but only the soldiers, trucks and maintenance equipment are making the trip overseas.

Maj. Chuck Anthony, a Guard spokesman, previously said the unit's maintenance skills are needed for the twin-rotor Chinooks, which perform best in Afghanistan's higher elevations.

The first C-17 took off from Hickam early yesterday morning, and others left throughout the day.

By the end of September, about 7,500 soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division will be in Afghanistan to help train the Afghan army and seek out remaining al-Qaida and Taliban fighters.

About 7,000 soldiers from the 25th Infantry Division (Light) at Schofield Barracks will be sent to Afghanistan in two consecutive deployments of 3,500 soldiers each beginning in February as replacements for the 10th Mountain Division.

Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee on July 24, Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said security is uneven throughout Afghanistan, but that three-quarters of the country is "pretty much secure."

"There is that part on the Afghan-Pakistan border that's not so secure that we have to deal with," Myers said, adding that holdout forces still are able to cross the region. Myers said the focus of the 10th Division would be in that southeastern region.

Reach William Cole at wcole@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-5459.