More than 1,350 Kentucky National Guard members will be going to Iraq next year in the Kentucky Guard's largest wartime mobilization since World War II, officials announced Thursday.
The call-up is exceeded only by the activation of 4,000 Guard members for relief work after the ice storm of 2009, the Guard said.
The mobilization is so large that officials decided to announce it on Veterans Day, said Lt. Col. Kirk Hilbrecht, a Guard public affairs officer.
The soldiers being mobilized are members of the Kentucky Guard's largest unit, the 149th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, and live in towns and communities across the state. They previously were placed on alert for possible call-up, and they now have received a mobilization order, which means they will be going overseas, Hilbrecht said.
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Likely three quarters of the troops have been on previous mobilizations, Hilbrecht said.
The troops are to report to their respective armories in June 2011 to prepare for departure. It is expected that they will be in Iraq for a year.
The United States is winding down its military presence in Iraq, and the last U.S. combat units left the country this summer. But large numbers of American troops remain.
The Kentuckians won't be directly performing combat duties in Iraq, Hilbrecht said, but they still could be in harm's way.
"It remains a dangerous zone," he said.
In Iraq, the Kentucky soldiers will join Guard troops from Virginia and Utah to provide security, base defense and convoy security, Guard officials said.
The combined force, which will exceed 2,600 soldiers, will be called "Task Force Legion."
Gov. Steve Beshear issued a statement Thursday in support of the troops.
"We will keep them in our thoughts and prayers as they embark to selflessly and bravely serve our nation," he said.
Maj. Gen. Edward Tonini, the Kentucky Adjutant General, said the 149th Brigade makes up about 30 percent of the Kentucky Guard's fighting force. But he said that sending the unit overseas won't reduce the Guard's readiness at home.
More than 14,000 Kentucky Army and Air National Guard members have been deployed since the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.