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Havre, Chinook guardsmen may be sent overseas

 


Army National Guard members from Havre and Chinook may be called up to active duty and shipped overseas as part of the military operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.

The soldiers would be called up to serve with the Kalispell-based 639th Quartermaster Company, which was recently activated. The company will provide supplies and services to other forces in overseas theaters, said Maj. Scott Smith, public information officer with the Montana Army National Guard.

The deployment will last at least one year and possibly up to two years.

The number of guardsmen in the 639th who are eligible for deployment was smaller than anticipated, and 50 spots within the unit must be filled before the unit is mobilized, likely in early December, Smith said.

About 20 guardsmen from Havre and Chinook assigned to the 443rd Petroleum, Oil and Lubricants Company have been identified as possible candidates to fill the vacant spots, Smith said. The soldiers have been selected based on their occupational specialty, he added.

A list of the candidates was unavailable this morning pending notification of all of the soldiers, said Sgt. Don Hammel. Hammel, a readiness officer with the 443rd's headquarters in Billings, was in Chinook and Havre today meeting with detachment commanders.

The finalized list was expected to be completed later today, Hammel said.

Once all of the soldiers have been notified, they will be ordered to report Tuesday to Fort Harrison in Helena. There, the soldiers will complete soldier readiness processing, which includes writing wills and providing dental X-rays and DNA samples.

The processing will take three days, Smith said. Then the soldiers will return home to await orders. Commanders with the 639th and the 95th Troop Command in Helena will decide which of the soldiers will be called up, Smith said.

Detachment commanders with the 443rd will also play a role in the selection, he added.

It is unclear how many of the 20 candidates will actually be called up for active duty, Smith said. The 443d is one of several military units that has soldiers eligible to fill vacant spots in the 639th, he said, adding that the deployment of the 639th is still in the planning stages.

"We'll know a lot more next week - who will go and where they're going to go," he said. "We're looking to tap units from Billings all the way up to Kalispell and Libby, so basically we're looking at the whole state."

The decision about which soldiers will be chosen for active duty will be made quickly, Smith said. The number of those who will be deployed involuntarily likely will be small, he added.

"We have people volunteering from outside the 639th, which will reduce the need for calling people up involuntarily," he said.

Those soldiers who are selected will travel to Kalispell to join the 639th for mobilization.

There, the entire unit, including equipment, supplies and soldiers, will be loaded onto trucks or a train and sent to a mobilization center, Smith said. Most likely, the 639th will be assigned to Fort Carson, Colo., he added.

The amount of time the unit will spend at the mobilization center has not been determined, he added. The length of stay varies for each unit. For instance, one small unit was deployed in less than a week, while a much larger one prepared at a mobilization center for more than two months, Smith said.

From the mobilization center, the unit will be sent overseas.

"It will probably be outside the continental United States, but I couldn't tell you if it's going to be Iraq or somewhere else," Smith said.

The 639th will be responsible for providing supplies and services to other units within the theater of action, Smith said.

"They can give supplies and services up to 18,000 soldiers," he said. "They have a big role."

Last year, the 639th completed an advanced training program at the Joint Readiness Training Center in Fort Polk, La.

"It's the Super Bowl of military training exercises," Smith said. "It's a tough test and they did really well with it."

 

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