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Indiana's Army Reserve unit "considered" for deployment

by RANDY WELLS rwells@indianagazette.net on July 01, 2011 2:45 AM

The part-time soldiers of Indiana's Army Reserve company -- last called to active duty for Operation Iraqi Freedom from 2003 to 2005 -- are now being "considered" for another deployment.

An Army Reserve spokesman said the call to full-time duty is not a certainty, and a time frame and destination for a deployment are unknown. But three developments are indicators that a mobilization to active duty is a likelihood for the Indiana reservists.

First, Army Reserve companies are being deployed to active duty on roughly five-year cycles, and it's been more than five years since the local reservists returned home to their North Fourth Street, Indiana, center on March 2, 2005, following a 15-month deployment for training and duty in Iraq.

Secondly, the Indiana reservists returned June 3 from 28 days of ramped-up training at Fort Irwin, Calif.

And thirdly, the local reserve soldiers and their families participated in a Yellow Ribbon Reintegration event in Pittsburgh on June 18-19. Yellow Ribbon events are staged by the Department of Defense to provide information on referral and outreach services to soldiers and their families during all phases of deployment cycles.

The Indiana Reserve company, formerly designated Company B, is a subordinate unit of the 458th Engineer Battalion in Johnstown.

The Indiana company is "definitely being considered" for deployment, said Bruce Jordan, who as a civilian is the supervisory staff administrator of the battalion. Jordan is also a first lieutenant and is company commander of the battalion's headquarters company.

Jordan said participation in the Yellow Ribbon event, intended to provide information so reservists' families feel less isolated while their husbands, sons and fathers are away on extended active duty, increases the likelihood of a deployment.

"Every unit is looked at (for deployment) at one time or another," and most Army Reserve units generally are being called to active duty once in a five-year cycle, said Charles States, the civilian human resources specialist for the battalion.

The possibility of the Indiana reservists being called to duty will be determined in part by the president's decision on U.S. troop levels overseas, Jordan said.

During their last overseas deployment, the Indiana reservists endured weeks of continuous duty without time off, 120-degree days and combat hazards. Four members of the company received Purple Hearts for wounds they suffered from improvised explosive devices (IEDs) -- remotely detonated roadside bombs. And their next call to full-time duty could be more hazardous.

Since the last deployment, the company has been redesignated as 420th Engineer Company (Clearance). The word clearance in parentheses indicates the Indiana reservists have received specialized training in route clearance -- searching for and removing IEDs planted along roads and meant to disable vehicles and inflict casualties.

The training in California was the first opportunity many of the local reservists had to work with the Buffalo mine protected vehicle, a heavily armored, six-wheel truck equipped with a long articulated arm for grasping and disposing of IEDs.

Jordan said the Indiana reservists and members of the battalion's other companies in Johnstown, New Kensington, Butler, Kittanning and Brookville will continue with their scheduled training.

"We will be ready, if given the phone call, to go anywhere in the world," he said.

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