The commander of the
Indiana Maine National Guard is pissed by the way his troops are being used in Iraq.
Maj. Gen. John “Bill” Libby, freshly returned from visiting his Maine Army National Guard troops in Iraq, called it “inexcusable” that the 152nd Maintenance Company is being used primarily as a security force.
“Three years in . . . it’s inexcusable to have brought a maintenance company over there to do anything but maintenance,” Libby said. “It’s particularly galling to me when I strip myself of full-time mechanics and they get there and they’re in a tower.”
“They were frustrated by not being able to be mechanics . . . and I’ll have a tough time convincing them to re-enlist,” he said. That creates problems in an area that is already a challenge for the National Guard and regular army.
The state’s top military official spent three days in Iraq, where he held a town meeting-style gathering with soldiers of the 152nd and traveled to southern and northern Iraq.
Libby’s visit coincided with the announcement that the Maine Army National Guard’s 240th Engineer Group will ship out in January for training in Indiana, and then be deployed to oversee engineer units in Afghanistan. Those 80 soldiers will be arriving there in February or March, roughly the same time the 150 members of the 152nd are scheduled to return home from Iraq, Libby said.
With the latest deployment, about 80 percent of the Maine National Guard will have been deployed during the current conflict. Those soldiers cannot be made to return under current rules that limit to 24 months guardsmen’s active-duty obligation, he said.
“The Maine National Guard is just about out of the fight, as the overall National Guard is,” he said. That poses a problem for the long-term presence of the Army in Iraq, he said. The National Guard and Reserve make up almost half of the 133,000 troops now in the country.
“Two years from now, where is that 133,000 going to come from? We’re flat out of troops in the National Guard,” Libby said.