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State Guard troops going on 2nd tours in Iraq, Afghanistan

BIRMINGHAM (AP) —Nearly 17 percent of about 640 Alabama Army National Guard soldiers expected to deploy to Iraq and Afghanistan from six state Guard units later this year are returning for at least a second tour.

Nationally about 200,000 Guard soldiers have served in Iraq and Afghanistan since the Sept. 11 attacks and about 12 percent are serving at least a second tour, according to figures from the National Guard Bureau.

Some of Alabama's returning soldiers have volunteered to go back because they wanted to fight terrorists or be with friends with whom they served in a previous tour. Another reason is the chance to earn full active duty military pay, combat supplements and other benefits, The Birmingham News reported Tuesday.

"What those guys bring is game experience, ... everything from just how to handle day-to-day life (to) how to handle stress," said Lt. Col. Steve Sowell, commander of the 1st Battalion, 131st Armor, which will send a unit of about 180 soldiers to Iraq.

Eight Alabama Army Guard units with about 1,120 soldiers are now in and around Iraq. Sixteen Army Guard members are in Afghanistan helping train members of the Afghan National Army.

Alabama-born Marine Cpl. Jennifer Holt will be heading to Iraq later this year for her third tour.

"The more deployments you go on, the more concerned you are with returning home," she said.

A former Clay-Chalkville High cheerleader, the 26-year-old Holt returned from her second tour in Al Anbar Province in March, and prepared for one more Iraq tour before her enlistment ends in December 2008.

"It's tough, you know, but I kind of feel like I know what's going on over there," she said in an interview from Camp Pendleton, Calif., where she is a member of the 7th Engineer Support Battalion's Alpha Co.

"I don't feel that the many deployments are damaging the corps, because when you become a Marine, you are prepared for many trips to war," she said.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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