Ashland-based battalion returning to Afghanistan

The Army has told an Oregon National Guard unit that includes an Ashland-based battalion to start preparing for a deployment that could make its members among the last American troops in Afghanistan.

The deployment of 1,800 troops would be the Guard's second-largest overseas deployment since World War II, and would include citizen soldiers from southwest Oregon. Three years ago 2,800 members of the Oregon Army National Guard were sent to Iraq.

The Guard started notifying members of the 41st Infantry Brigade Combat Team over the weekend to be prepared for a deployment tentatively scheduled to last 400 days.

The 41st Brigade is headquartered at Camp Withycombe in Clackamas and has battalions based in Ashland, Springfield, Portland, Forest Grove and Bend.

President Barack Obama has said, if re-elected, he plans to withdraw the remaining 68,000 U.S. troops by the end of 2014.

Guard spokesman Capt. Stephen Bomar likened the deployment to that of an Oregon unit sent to Iraq in 2010, immediately after the U.S. downgraded its role in Iraq from combat to noncombat operations.

In Afghanistan in 2014, Bomar said, Oregon soldiers "could be the last ones on the ground."

But he noted the plans could be canceled or the deployment scaled back or otherwise changed in the months leading up to 2014.

The notices delivered to the Oregon Guard are the first of three given to a unit scheduled to deploy.

The notification provides money for training. It may be followed by a mobilization "alert," typically given a year ahead of the deployment, and then by a mobilization order, which provides specific details.

The Guard described the deployment as a "security mission." When the brigade deployed to Iraq three years ago, its primary duties were to provide security at military bases and for supply convoys.

Afghanistan has seen a spate of deadly "green-on-blue" killings by Afghan troops who turn their weapons on Americans and their allies. Commanders in Afghanistan recently ordered a stop to some joint missions with Afghan troops.

Among the more than 50 coalition troops killed this year by their presumed Afghan allies was Army Spec. Mabry Anders of Baker City, who died last month.

Share This Story