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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Hawai'i Guard not going to Iraq

By William Cole
Advertiser Military Writer

The Hawai'i Army National Guard's 29th Separate Infantry Brigade won't be going to Iraq after Adm. Thomas Fargo, head of U.S. forces in the Pacific, raised concern that the Army would be stretched too thin in Hawai'i.

The infantry brigade, with 2,100 Hawai'i-based soldiers and attached units such as the Reserves' 100th Battalion, was one of several "enhanced" brigades the Pentagon was looking at sending to Iraq as part of its new troop rotation plan.

The 29th was high on the list for one of two brigade replacements that the Pentagon said would come from the enhanced Army Guard units capable of being deployed within 90 days of activation.

But with the announcement that two 3,500-soldier brigades of the 25th Infantry Division (Light) will be deploying consecutively to Afghanistan for six month tours beginning in February, Fargo felt the additional deployment of the 29th to Iraq at about the same time would have strained readiness here, officials said.

Hawai'i's three Army brigades serve as back-up forces for a North Korean contingency.

Hawai'i National Guard spokesman Maj. Chuck Anthony only would say that "the indications are that we won't be getting any large-scale call-ups — at least for the foreseeable future."

The Pentagon picked the 30th Infantry Brigade from North Carolina and the 39th Infantry Brigade from Arkansas for the duty.

The Army National Guard has 15 enhanced brigades. When word spread that the 29th was a top contender for Iraq duty, dozens of Hawai'i Army Guard soldiers in other units sought a transfer to the brigade, indicating a willingness for the assignment.

The last time the 29th was activated as an entire unit was in 1968 during the Vietnam War, when the brigade trained up at Schofield Barracks and 1,100 soldiers were sent to Southeast Asia.