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Boro's 48th preps to deploy

Brigade going to Afghanistan in 2009

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Boro's 48th preps to deploy

Lt. Col. Tom Bright, left, commander of the 48th Brigade Special Troops Battalion, stands with 2nd Lt. Joshua Highsmith in front of the Brigade's sign Wednesday at the Statesboro Armory. The Brigade is training for deployment to Afghanistan in June 2009.

    Lt. Col. Tom Bright is building a team at the Statesboro Armory. Bright is commander of the 48th Brigade Special Troops Battalion that has its headquarters at the Armory. The brigade is preparing for a 10-month mission in Afghanistan beginning in mid-2009.
    "As we get ready to deploy, I see my biggest challenge as making each soldier understand and appreciate the benefit of working as a team," said Bright, who assumed command of the Statesboro-based brigade in June. "If I do my job right, we'll meld the skills and duties of everyone in the battalion from the commanders to the platoon leaders to each soldier into a complete team."
    The 48th Brigade is part of the Georgia Army National Guard's 48th Infantry Brigade. The 48th Infantry's last deployment was to Iraq in 2005-06, and that included the 648th Engineer Battalion, which had its headquarters in Statesboro at the time. The 648th has since moved to another base in south Georgia.
    Bright said the approximately 300 Guardsmen who are part of Statesboro-based 48th began training for the Afghanistan mission several months ago. Some of the brigade recently returned from five weeks of training in Wisconsin and the entire brigade will go for three weeks to Fort Polk in Louisiana in February.
    "At Fort Polk, we'll train just like we were in Afghanistan," Bright said. "We'll simulate terrain, receive daily briefings and roll into missions."
    In Afghanistan, Bright said the 48th will be charged with training soldiers in the Afghan National Army.
    "It is a combat mission, but our primary goal is to train Afghan soldiers to patrol, defend and fight for their own country," Bright said. "We'll train on base and then send two or three of our soldiers out with Afghan platoons on missions."
    After returning in late February from Fort Polk, Bright said the brigade will begin 45 days of training at Fort Stewart in Hinesville.
    "We'll go Monday through Friday with weekends off," Bright said.
    The brigade then begins its 12-month deployment with two months of intensive training at Camp Atterbury in Indiana. The 48th will head to Afghanistan for 10 months some time in June 2009 and is expected to return in April or May 2010.
    Staff Sgt. Bryan Neal is a combat engineer with the 48th. He was part of the 648th Engineer Battalion's mission to Iraq in 2005 and also is going to Afghanistan.
    "There's no question my experience in Iraq will help with this mission," Neal said. "Iraq was pretty harsh and a big eye-opener about the danger you face while down range. We train really well and really hard, but it's not possible to simulate the intensity of what it will be like when we get to Afghanistan."
    Staff Sgt. Brian Griffin, who also was part of the 648th's Iraq deployment, agreed with Neal.
    "I tell the soldiers to steel themselves," Griffin said. "It''l be tougher than they can imagine."
    Neal, a Georgia Southern graduate, and his wife are expecting a baby right before he deploys.
    "She is adjusting to that," Neal said. "But it'll be hard. We know that."
    Bright, a career military man, recognizes the anxiety the deployment will create for all members of the 48th.
    "I've been to Bosnia and overseas for other missions, but this is my first combat mission," Bright said. "There's no question being on a two-way firing range adds to the stress level. That's why it comes back to being part of a team. When the stress comes, you have help from the team to deal with it."
    Bright has a son who also is in the military. Drew Bright is a medical evacuation helicopter pilot stationed at Fort Hood in Texas. He has served two tours in Iraq and is awaiting orders to go overseas again. Bright said it's possible Drew may also deploy to Afghanistan.
    As the training picks up for the 48th Brigade, Bright described the soldiers under his command as "motivated and anticipatory" about the upcoming mission.
    "As a soldier you have to be a Type A personality," Bright said. "Going to serve our country in a hostile environment is what we've been trained to do. We'll be ready."   
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