About 300 members of the Modesto-based 184th Infantry Battalion of the California National Guard face their second Iraq deployment in four years. The call to active duty for pre-deployment training is expected this summer.
Two full companies, Bravo and Charlie, will be assigned to the 185th Armored Battalion, based in Southern California, when it goes to Iraq. Many members of the headquarters company from Modesto also will fill in for the 185th.
Lt. Col. Dirk Levy, the battalion's commanding officer, said about 300 soldiers will go back to Iraq, where the unit served in 2005.
A slightly larger contingent, 322 soldiers, could be sent to Kosovo later this year, probably after Christmas. Levy expected both deployments to last one year. He said most of the soldiers do not know where they will be going. A rear guard detachment of about 25 or 35 will stay behind in the valley.
Levy praised his command's soldiers as "proven warriors. They're positive to go back and proud of their previous service." Levy became the 184th's commanding officer in October 2006. He said he expects to serve with the main body of the 184th headed to Kosovo, which is facing uncertain times after having recently declared its independence from Serbia.
Levy said Oakdale-based Delta Company is tentatively scheduled for Kosovo. Other Guard members said they were told that Delta Company would be broken up and cease to exist as a unit. Its members would be assigned to other units in and out of the 184th.
Officers at the Guard's armory on Rouse Avenue in Modesto said about 75 percent of the soldiers in the unit were part of the 2005 deployment.
Capt. Mike Riley of Sacramento, headquarters company commander, said even soldiers scheduled to leave the Guard 90 days before active training begins for these deployments will have their duty extended through the end of the unit's time in Iraq or Kosovo.
Cpl. Joseph Shifflett of Merced is scheduled to leave the Guard before the involuntary extensions could take effect. He said he would re-enlist and wants to go back to Iraq. He is a scout who usually works outside of armored vehicles collecting intelligence.
"It's mostly for the guys," he said of his motive, indicating the bond between soldiers. He said he wouldn't want to go to Kosovo.
"That would be boring," he said.
Spc. Eric Everhard of Salida agreed. He said he had expected the orders to go back to Iraq to come before they did. He will leave behind his wife and three children, ages 5 and 3 years, and 8 months.
"I feel fine (about going to Iraq)," he said. "I think you could get into more trouble if you went to Kosovo."
Levy said that at one time guardsmen could expect three years off after a year of active duty. He said the new reality is more like one year on duty and two years of "stabilization."
The 184th returned from Iraq in January 2006.
Before the units are activated for training before deployment, each member of the 184th will go through the Soldier Readiness Program, in which mental and medical fitness for combat is evaluated.
This weekend, soldiers were getting dental checks and completing the move of equipment and personnel from the Turlock armory.
Staff writer Roger W. Hoskins may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2311.