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Oregon Guard road builders headed for Iraq

PORTLAND &

A contingent of more than 100 road builders from the Oregon National Guard is headed to Iraq, the first such deployment in more than a year.

A Guard spokesman said it is not a part of President Bush's "surge" strategy, though.

The 224th Engineer Company of Albany in June will leave for Fort McCoy in Wisconsin, where soldiers will train for about 60 days, Lt. Stephen Bomar said Thursday.

Bomar said notice of the deployments came before the president announced a troop increase.

"It does give the perception that it is part of the surge," he said. "But it's not."

No Oregon Guard units have been in Iraq since March 2006, although some Oregon Guard members volunteered for deployment there with units from other states.

There are as many as 900 Oregon Guard soldiers in Afghanistan, Bomar said. They are scheduled to return in June.

In 2005, Bomar said, about 730 Oregon Guard soldiers were mobilized to Iraq. Additionally, he said, another 150 were in places such as Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay and Kuwait.

Some members of the 224th were deployed to Iraq in February 2003 for a year as part of a unit that no longer exists.

About 200 Guard troops based in Warrrenton and Salem remain on alert for possible deployment to Iraq, Bomar said. n a separate development Thursday in Washington, a Pentagon official said several National Guard brigades are expected to be notified soon that they could be sent to Iraq around the first of next year.