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Hawaii National Guard going to train Afghan security forces

By William Cole

LAST UPDATED: 4:36 p.m. HST, Mar 5, 2012

About 150 Hawaii Army National Guard soldiers will be mobilized in October for deployment to Afghanistan to work as part of small U.S. teams training Afghan security forces, officials said.

It is the third "notification of sourcing" from the Army in less than a year's time. The latest notice cancels all previous deployment notifications for Hawaii-based citizen soldiers, Lt. Col. Chuck Anthony, a Hawaii National Guard spokesman, said today.

About 500 Guam Army National Guard soldiers may still be deployed to Afghanistan in 2013 as previously planned, Anthony said.

The 150 Hawaii soldiers and about 50 others drawn from Texas, Arizona and Guam will deploy as part of small "Security Force Assistance Teams" of 12 or more soldiers that work to train Afghan security forces. Dozens of the teams are being fielded as the United States continues to draw down its forces in the country.

The small-team training strategy comes as the U.S. deals with ongoing violence related to U.S. forces burning Qurans at Bagram Air Field Feb. 20.

Six U.S. soldiers have been killed by Afghan security forces since then. The violence also has claimed Afghan lives. A suicide bomber blew himself up at a Bagram Air Field gate today, killing himself and two other civilians in the latest bloodshed over the Quran burning, which the U.S. said was unintentional.

Anthony said most of the approximately 150 Hawaii soldiers scheduled to go to Afghanistan are volunteers. They were drawn from across a variety of Hawaii Guard units, and many are majors, lieutenant colonels and high-ranking enlisted soldiers, he said.

The latest Hawaii National Guard order means that fewer Hawaii soldiers will be deploying. The Guard's 29th Infantry Brigade Combat Team was told in the spring of 2011 that it was on notice for a possible 2013 Afghanistan deployment.

More than 2,000 soldiers from Hawaii and 1,600 from Guam and Arizona would have been affected.

That order was superceded in December with word that the Army was seeking a reduced commitment and wanted a "battalion-sized or larger unit" instead of the entire brigade.

Anthony said about 500 Guam soldiers identified early on as being part of the deployment may still go to Afghanistan in 2013.

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