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Indiana brigade heading to Fort Stewart

POSTED: October 9, 2007 5:04 a.m.
A brigade combat team of the Indiana National Guard will be heading for Fort Stewart soon to finish off their training for deployment Iraq.
The 3,400 members of the Indianapolis-based National Guard unit had been expecting the mobilization since February, but the unit got the final word this past week and has made an official announcement.
The outfit was supposed to deploy in 2009 or 2010, but the troop surge in Iraq accelerated the schedule, said Col. Keith Sharples, a Noblesville, In., infantry officer in the brigade.
The yearlong deployment begins in December, when the soldiers start their training at Camp Atterbury in Edinburgh. They’ll continue training at Fort Stewart and will deploy overseas by the end of winter, although the exact date has not been set.
If all stays on schedule, the men and women will be back in the United States by December 2008.
Staff Sgt. William Lincks II knows he faces a riskier situation when he heads to Iraq this winter than 16 years ago when he served in the Persian Gulf War.
There were more troops on the ground then and none of the roadside bombs common now. But on this trip overseas, his biggest concern will be far from Iraq.
“The only thing I’m really worried about is my family,” said Lincks, who lives in Indianapolis with his wife and four daughters, ages 1 to 17. “Risk comes with the job. You prepare for it the best you can and just take it as it comes.”
Lincks, a squad leader, will be among 3,400 troops sent to Iraq this winter as part of the 76th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.

A first for the brigade
Although most units in the 76th have seen duty in Iraq or Afghanistan, this marks the first time the brigade will serve together overseas. It’s also the largest deployment of a single unit of the Indiana National Guard since World War II, according to Lt. Col. Deedra Thombleson, an Indiana Guard spokeswoman.
“There’s part of you that knows your friends are going into harm’s way, and it makes you a little nervous,” said Thombleson, who will not be deployed. “But the soldier in you makes you want to concentrate on preparing the other soldiers.”
The troops will be in various Iraqi locations, Thombleson said, to be determined after they arrive overseas, based on the needs there. They’ll do jobs such as running convoys and operating bases.
Sharples, who will take on an administrative role in Iraq, said the sacrifice of leaving his family and the comforts of his civilian life as an insurance agent are justified by the cause for which he’s fighting.
“I just worry about what’s going to happen if we pull out,” he said. “The toll paid by the Iraqi people would be so horrendous.”
Despite his own concerns for his family, Lincks said he looks forward to his mission. His training includes both active duty service and seven years in the National Guard, and it’s been more than two years since he’s been deployed.
“It’s like you’re in a big ballgame when you’ve been used to sitting the bench,” he said. “Now it’s time for the coach to put you in.”
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