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48th Infantry Brigade training up for Afghanistan
Troops heading to Fort Polk this weekend
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Some 800-900 National Guard soldiers from the Coastal Empire will head to Fort Polk, La., this weekend as the 48th Infantry Brigade prepares for a 10-month deployment to Afghanistan sometime in mid-2009.
Members of the 1st Battalion, 118th Field Artillery Regiment, headquartered at the Eisenhower Armory in Savannah, will be flying to Louisiana, beginning early Thursday morning from Hunter Army Airfield.
The 118th is home to Georgia National Guard troops living along the coast between Savannah and Brunswick.
Command Sgt. Major Wesley Dover leads the 118th. He said the departure will begin the brigade’s pre-mobilization stage for Afghanistan, but will also serve as an extended annual training session for the guard.
“Normally we do our annual training here at Fort Stewart,” Dover said. “But in some preparation for the Afghanistan deployment, we will be conducting our annual training at Fort Polk.”
For three weeks, Dover said the soldiers will get reacquainted with their normal duty tasks and receive specific training for their upcoming mission.
“We will be doing some time on the range, going out to training sites with make-shift villages and doing a little bit of cultural-type training that may be a little different than preparing for deployment to Iraq.” 
Sgt. Tracy Smith, public affairs officer for the brigade, said the entire brigade could be leaving for Afghanistan as early as May and will mentor troops in the country.
“The predominance of our mission is to train the Afghanistan security forces so that they may be able to operate autonomously,” Smith said.
To do that, Dover said the training at Fort Polk is essential. 
“This is a little bit different than deployments to Iraq,” he said. “We will be working hand-and-hand with Afghan national army and police. So we will be doing a little bit of nation-building.”
The training aims at that goal.
“It also gives unit commanders a chance to look at their units and do some fine tuning before we return home and get ready to deploy,” he added.
When the training at Fort Polk is complete, Dover said some soldiers will return to Fort Stewart for individual and platoon training.
“Once we complete our individual training at the mobilization stage, we will be prepared to deploy to Afghanistan.”
The 48th National Guard IFB is composed of more than 4,300 soldiers from 30 different counties in Georgia.
Smith said only half of the brigade is expected to deploy to Afghanistan.
According to brigade officials, members of the 148th Brigade Support Battalion, the former unit stationed in Hinesville, has since been renamed, relocated and will not deploy to Afghanistan.

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