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Indiana Guardsmen ready to deploy

POSTED: January 22, 2008 5:03 a.m.
“It kind of strikes at your heart,” said Sgt. Paul Tacker, talking about the birth of his first child, which will happen next month back home in Indiana while he’s far away serving his country.
But Tacker is positive and upbeat about being ordered to deploy to Iraq. He’s been there before, and some of his best friends are those he made when the 76th Brigade of the Indiana National Guard participated in the invasion of Iraq. Many of them are going back with the 76th this year. “It’s a job we need to do,” he said.
Sgt. William Middleton of Pleasant Lake, Ind., said, “I never thought it would be like this when I signed up for the Guard,” but he’s not complaining. “It’s great to be doing something instead of training for something you never actually do.”
The two sergeants were on their way to find their new, temporary homes in the barracks of the National Guard Training Area at Fort Stewart while different groups of their comrades firing their rifles on the range, making a forced march and generally sorting out training tasks in a new environment.
And that environment is a little strange. Not only is Fort Stewart a long way from Indiana, but the area being occupied by the 76th has some special features. Like concertina wire and guard towers.
It is being converted to resemble as much as possible a forward operating base (FOB) like the ones the soldiers will work from in Iraq.
When the training begins in earnest, the 76th will be sealed off from the real world and operate just as if it were in Iraq.
“It is as real as we can make it,” said Maj. Valerie Meadows, a public affairs officer, said, “as realistic as possible.”
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