Guard soldiers deploying to Afghanistan

02/17/2011 11:55 PM

02/17/2011 11:56 PM

About 120 soldiers of the S.C. Army National Guard’s 742nd Support Maintenance Company will leave Sunday for a one-year deployment in southern Afghanistan.

It is the second deployment of S.C. Army National Guard troops to Afghanistan in a week, and the third in a year.

The Guard members, their families and friends will hold a departure ceremony at 10 a.m. today at the National Guard Armory, 1225 Bluff Road, Columbia.

The 742nd SMC, headquartered at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, will leave Sunday for Fort Hood, Texas, for a month of final pre-deployment training, before leaving for Afghanistan in late March.

The mission of the 742nd is maintenance of vehicles, small arms and electronics equipment.

Last week, 100 soldiers of the S.C. Army National Guard’s 228th Theater Tactical Signal Brigade, headquartered in Spartanburg, flew to Fort Lewis in Washington for three weeks of training before departing for Afghanistan in March. Their job is to operate, maintain and expand the communications network for U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

Last July, about 200 soldiers of the S.C. National Guard’s 1221st Engineering Clearance Company deployed to eastern Afghanistan, near the border with Pakistan. Their job is to locate and clear roadside bombs. Two of their fellow soldiers — Spc. Luther Rabon, 32, of Lexington, and Staff Sgt. Willie Harley, 48, of Aiken — were killed Oct. 1 when their vehicle was struck by a roadside bomb.

Currently, about 600 Guard members are in Iraq and Afghanistan, mostly Afghanistan, according to Guard spokesman Lt. Col. Lester Carroll.

“And (we have) a handful of people in Kosovo,” he said. “We also have more than 400 mobilized stateside.”

About 75 percent of the 11,300 members of the S.C. Army and Air National Guard have been deployed at least once since 9/11. Fifteen have been killed in action.

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