Guard Unit to Deploy
The Southern Pines-based unit of the North Carolina National Guard is preparing for its second deployment to Iraq next spring.
A farewell ceremony will be held for the unit at 10 a.m. Tuesday at the National Guard Armory on Morganton Road. Congressman Howard Coble and state Sen. Harris Blake are among the dignitaries expected to attend the ceremony.
The local unit -- Company C, 1st Battalion, 252nd Armor Regiment -- is part of the 30th Heavy Brigade Combat Team (HBCT).
The HBCT began holding farewell ceremonies for units across the state Nov. 14, according to a release on the N.C. National Guard Web site. Some 26 ceremonies are being held through Jan. 3 at local venues at or near each unit's hometown.
A large farewell ceremony for the 4,000 soldiers of the brigade will be scheduled closer to the actual deployment for Iraq early next spring.
Next month, the soldiers will begin an intensified training period prior to entering federal active duty, the news release said. Initially, they will be stationed at Fort Bragg and Fort Stewart, Ga. After returning home for a Christmas holiday break, the entire 30th HBCT will head to Camp Shelby, Hattiesburg, Miss., to continue training. The soldiers will officially begin active duty in February.
Once the mobilization training is complete, the brigade will deploy to Iraq for the second time in five years.
The brigade, including the Southern Pines unit, deployed the first time in late 2003 for Operation Iraqi Freedom, expecting to spend a year there. The units began returning home on New Year's Eve 2005.
Many of the soldiers had no experience overseas prior to the first deployment. The unit had primarily helped with disaster relief after hurricanes.
The brigade patrolled a province called Diyala near the Iranian border. It's one of the least violent areas in the country because of the mostly rural setting and the U.S.-friendly Kurdish population.
Five members of the brigade were killed in combat during the deployment. Four of them were North Carolina Army National Guardsmen, while another was assigned to the unit from the West Virginia Army National Guard.
One of the soldiers killed was Sgt. Michael S. Voss, of Carthage. Voss died when an explosive device detonated near a vehicle in which he was a passenger, outside Kirkuk.
The 35-year-old Voss was a squad leader assigned to Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 120th Infantry headquartered in Wilmington.
Contact David Sinclair at 693-2462 or by e-mail at dsinclair@ thepilot.com.
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