Army Plans to Retain Louisiana Brigade After Iraq Return
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sept. 8, 2005 The Army will take care of the "Tigers" of the 256th Brigade Combat Team as they return to a devastated Louisiana from their year in Baghdad, Iraq, a senior defense official said Sept. 7.
Military leaders plan to put the headquarters of the Louisiana National Guard unit "right in the fight with the hurricane," said the official, speaking on background.
The brigade's advance elements are already back in the United States and setting up at Fort Polk, La.
After a year of duty in Iraq, the soldiers of the 256th were looking forward to a joyous homecoming. Now, because of Katrina, many of the soldiers may be coming back to find their homes and their jobs washed away by the hurricane. Officials said the Army intends to keep the soldiers activated as a way of providing support for individuals who lived in the storm-damaged region.
"We intend to keep those citizen soldiers from the 256th on active duty for an extended period and dedicate their efforts to the recovery operations for Katrina," the official said. "This will give them benefits, pay and a sense of purpose, and allows them to be left under the umbrella of the Department of the Army."
This will provide affected soldiers with housing or housing stipends, the official said. Soldiers whose homes are standing and who have jobs to go back to will be released from active duty, he said.
A similar arrangement may be made for the soldiers of the Mississippi National Guard's 155th Brigade Combat Team. The 155th,part of Multinational Division West in Iraq's Anbar province, are due to rotate back to the United States in early 2006.