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Guard unit readies for next mission
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Georgia’s citizen-soldiers will be on the move again soon.

Members of the Springfield-based A Battery of the 1/118 Field Artillery Battalion were told at their drill last weekend to prepare themselves and their loved ones for another lengthy tour of duty overseas. The unit and the rest of the 48th Brigade Combat Team will be mobilizing in January and begin training for a rotation to Afghanistan.

“They told the guys in the last drill, and they went home and told their wives,” said Staff Sgt. Richard Socia, family readiness liaison for A Battery.

Soldiers from A Battery likely will leave for the Middle East in March or April, Socia said.

A Battery, when it mobilizes, is expected to be 100 soldiers strong. In the meantime, it will be getting in new equipment, soldiers will be doing their necessary paperwork and getting shots and soldiers also will be put in the right positions, Socia said.

The 48th Brigade and A Battery spent 15 months away from home in 2005, including a year as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom, finally returning in April and May 2006.

The 48th Brigade’s makeup has changed from a heavy force with two infantry battalions and one armor battalion to a lighter force, with the Abrams tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles getting traded in for Humvees. The 1/118 Field Artillery also exchanged its M109 Paladin self-propelled howitzers for towed 105mm howitzers.

“We transformed from a heavy brigade combat team to an infantry brigade combat team,” Socia said.

The 48th was alerted last December that it and another brigade, the 53rd out of Florida, would be in the rotation for a deployment to Afghanistan. Before departing for Afghanistan, A Battery may be headed to Camp Blanding, Fla., and likely will spend a month at the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, La.

“It looks like our unit is going to be split,” Socia said, noting the battery has two firing platoons and those platoons may be attached to other units.

While in Afghanistan, soldiers from the 48th may be training Afghan national security forces, according to the Department of Defense. The 53rd, a light infantry unit that saw combat in Iraq just after the 2003 invasion, is expected to conduct combat operations in Afghanistan.

Three other National Guard brigades — from Oregon, Wisconsin and Mississippi — are slated for duty in Iraq this summer.