About N.J. Guardsmen Don't Know Iraq Duty Extended
|January 14th, 2007||#1|
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N.J. Guardsmen Don't Know Iraq Duty Extended info
January 14, 2007
Members of some of the 159 soldiers' families voiced complaints at meetings with Guard representatives.
By Mari A. Schaefer, Inquirer Staff Writer
Families of the New Jersey Army National Guard troops stationed in Iraq met yesterday with Guard representatives and voiced frustration that they knew more about the Army's orders than did their loved ones overseas.
Why, they wanted to know, have the 159 New Jersey guardsmen still not received official notice that their Iraq tours have been extended by 125 days?
"I will not make excuses for the lack of communication in theater," Maj. Gen. Glenn K. Rieth, New Jersey's adjutant general, said at a meeting in Bordentown Township. He apologized to the families for the Army's not keeping troops in Iraq up to date.
Representatives from the Guard and Family Readiness Group also met with families in Vineland and West Orange, where Gov. Corzine took part.
"We're trying to make this as clear as possible with the info we know," Corzine told family members. "I wish I could write new orders myself."
Most spouses, parents and children were told about the extension Thursday, but the troops have not received their orders and are only hearing rumors, relatives said.
Instead of a March homecoming, the 117th Reconnaissance Surveillance Target Acquisition unit and the 250th Brigade Support Battalion will return in July or August.
The extension is part of President Bush's plan for about 21,500 more troops in Iraq.
At the Bordentown meeting, families asked whether the jobs the soldiers were doing would remain the same, about help with tax preparation, and about what they should say when their loved ones called home.
"Allow them to vent to you," Command Sgt. Maj. Matt Valente of the 250th said. "Be their sounding board... and then just reassure them."
Both units, which deployed in September and October 2005 to Mississippi for training and then to Iraq, are stationed at Camp Anaconda, one of the largest U.S. bases in Iraq, about 50 miles north of Baghdad.
The support unit, from the Bordentown armory, is responsible for vehicle maintenance. The reconnaissance unit, which is based in Vineland and drew soldiers from the West Orange armory, is responsible for base security and protecting convoys.
Linda Tran, 27, of Easton, Pa., whose husband, Capt. Alex Tran, is company commander for the group, said she had been looking forward to a March reunion.
Tran, who was married two years ago and has spent only five months with her husband, said she was "a little disappointed" at the extension.
"It is what it is. You have no say in this," she said. "I hope they get to come back sooner than what is scheduled."
Holly Kokas, 41, of Florence, said she recently had called Rutgers University to get admission information for her son, Ryan Lawton, 21, a mechanic with the 250th.
Lawton, who joined the Guard while he was in high school, plans to study law and law enforcement.
"I guess we'll have to call them back," Kokas said.
No Pennsylvania units will be extended, according to Lt. Col. Chris Cleaver of the Pennsylvania National Guard.
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