Leslie Turk

Defense Dept.: 3,000 area soldiers may go to Iraq

by Leslie Turk

The U.S. Department of Defense yesterday made it official -- more than 3,000 soldiers from the Louisiana Army National Guard’s 256th Brigade Combat Team, based in Lafayette, have been placed on alert for deployment to Iraq. The alert is intended to notify the soldiers that they need to get ready for deployment but is not necessarily definitive.

"It’s not a done deal," Maj. Michael Kazmierzak, a Louisiana National Guard spokesman told The Advocate. He said 100 percent of the alerts don't ultimately become deployments because situations may change, causing the cancellation of an alert. The 256th is expected to be deployed in 2010; the Department of Defense noted that some brigades will be leaving sooner, in the spring of 2009.

If the local brigade deploys, it will be the second time its soldiers have gone to Iraq since the war started more than five years ago. About 3,000 soldiers from the 256th Brigade deployed to Iraq in October 2004 and returned in October 2005 to help in the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Twenty-three soldiers from the brigade were killed during that tour of duty, Kazmierzak told the paper.