State guard 2nd in sending troops to Iraq
MONTGOMERY (AP) — Since the 2001 terrorist attacks, Alabama has sent more Army National Guard troops to Iraq and Afghanistan than any other state except for much more populous Texas, according to National Guard figures.
The Alabama Army Guard has deployed 6,281 soldiers in and around Iraq since Sept. 11, 2001 and 787 in and around Afghanistan for a total of 7,068, Guard records show. Only Texas, which has almost five times the population of Alabama, has deployed more. The Lone Star state has sent 7,184 Army Guard soldiers to Iraq and Afghanistan since the attacks.
Guard officials say the figures show that Alabama has units that are in high demand in the combat zones.
“We can bring to the table just about any unit that is necessary to accomplish the mission in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Lt. Col. Bob Horton, a spoke-
sman at Guard headquarters in Montgomery, said.
“It shows either proactive leaders or it shows confidence in the state, or a little bit of both,” said Spec. Chet Keenum, a 26-year-old Pinson resident deployed to Iraq in May 2005 with Company A, 1st Battalion, with the Alabama Guard’s 167th Infantry Regiment.
An eye injury, caused by a roadside bomb, sent Keenum home for surgery and recuperation, but he was able to rejoin his unit, which came home last spring.
Alabama’s deployment numbers do not mean that 7,068 separate individuals have been sent to Iraq or Afghanistan, since some soldiers have been deployed more than once. Alabama’s Army Guard has sent a variety of units to Iraq, Afghanistan or nearby. The troops include special forces, engineering, medical, water purification, transportation, communication and military police units.
Alabama’s Army Guard is one of the nation’s largest, as well. In December, it had 11,272 soldiers, according to the National Guard Bureau.
Only four other states — California, Indiana, Pennsylvania and Texas — had larger numbers of troops in their National Guards.
At present, seven Alabama Army Guard units with about 1,100 troops are on duty in and around Iraq, and more than 450 members from four other units have been put on alert for possible duty there.
Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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