Local National Guard unit set to deploy to Afghanistan in 2009

COVINGTON - Three years after returning from Iraq, soldiers with Covington's National Guard Unit will be deployed to Afghanistan in summer 2009.

More than 130 soldiers with Company B 1-121st Infantry of the National Guard's 48th Brigade will leave for Afghanistan in July or August 2009, according to Unit Readiness NCO Sgt. First Class Patrick Eaton.

The soldiers are part of a much larger contingent of 7,000 troops from the 48th and 53rd Brigade Combat Teams that will help train Afghan National Security Forces.

About 60 percent of soldiers with the Covington unit are combat veterans, many having served in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2005-06, Eaton said.

The soldiers are expected to mobilize in May, possibly to Fort Stewart, for additional training before heading overseas.

They will also spend two weeks training in the Republic of Georgia this summer.

Members of the unit's Family Readiness Group, formed to support soldiers' families during their deployment, are also preparing for their departure and asking the community to lend its support.

The group is seeking businesses and organizations to participate in Operation Patriot's Call, which provides free services to soldiers' families.

Funds donated to the program will go toward paying for services such as auto, heating and air repair, plumbing, lawn care, doctor's visits and more.

A directory of local businesses and organizations willing to participate is being compiled.

"When these guys are deployed, we want these guys to know the community of Covington, Ga., is here to support you," said Kim Schroeder, family readiness coordinator for the unit.

Anyone interested in participating in Operation Patriot's Call is invited to attend a meeting at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, April 8 at the National Guard Armory at 4124 Carroll St.

The readiness group will also be seeking the community's support for upcoming fund raisers, Schroeder said.

For more information, call Schroeder at 770-262-0265 or visit www.patriotscall.com.

Crystal Tatum can be reached at crystal.tatum@ newtoncitizen.com.