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Alabama Army National Guard Unit to Deploy to Afghanistan

Birmingham, AL – The battalion commander says the largest Alabama Army National Guard unit to serve in Iraq expects to be deployed to Afghanistan in the late summer of 2009.

Battalion commander Lieutenant Colonel David Ward says members of the 877th Engineer Battalion already are taking language training.

The 877th headquartered in Hamilton has several hundred members. It was one of the largest state National Guard units to be deployed to Iraq in 2003.

If it is deployed to Afghanistan, it will be the largest Alabama Guard unit to serve in that country.

The 877th's mission in Iraq included building military centers, repairing schools and improving roads. Ward says the unit should have similar tasks in Afghanistan, where it will be based in the eastern part of the country.

The average age in its ranks was about 43 when the 877th was in Iraq, and many of its members retired after the battalion returned home and was reorganized.

Ward, who has not yet served a tour in Iraq or Afghanistan, says the average age in the battalion now is closer to 30.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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