EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

New Hampshire

June 27, 2010

National Guard gears up for deployment

The New Hampshire National Guard will soon embark on its largest single-unit deployment since World War II.

Originally, 1,100 New Hampshire soldiers with the 197th Fires Brigade were slated for deployment to Kuwait, Capt. Robert Burnham said. That number has since been scaled back to 700, but that's still the largest deployment in several decades.

After assessing the mission and evaluating available attached units from other states, deployment organizers assigned groups from Michigan, West Virginia, and Rhode Island to work with the New Hampshire Brigade Headquarters, Burnham said.

The total number of soldiers to be deployed is now projected at more than 2,400, he said.

Staff Sgt. James Kendall of Derry and Capt. Philip Meher of Plaistow — both fathers with families of four children — are among the 700-plus New Hampshire soldiers scheduled to attend a mobilization ceremony in Manchester on Sept. 11.

They will take part in a year-long mission providing security for bases in Kuwait and for convoys trucking supplies to and from Iraq.

Preparation for the deployment is important for the soldiers, their families and the success of the mission. The 197th Fires Brigade has been on alert notice in preparation for the deployment since last summer, Burnham said.

Kendall, 35, deployed with the New Hampshire National Guard in a transportation company from December 2003 to February 2005. He said he has known for about two years that he might be redeployed.

The advance notice is helpful, giving him plenty of time to get insurance, his will and other essential paperwork in order for his family. His children — ages 6, 13, 15, and 17 — are all in school.

After the Sept. 11 mobilization ceremony, the soldiers will fly to Fort McCoy in Wisconsin for a few weeks of training before leaving for Kuwait. On-the-job training will continue in Kuwait for about 30 days.

Kendall said he will spend time riding in a military vehicle with soldiers from the unit his group is replacing, getting tips on day-to-day operations from the soldiers.

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