The Defense Department announced Monday that five Army National Guard units have been alerted that they are going to serve in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The units include some 8,000 troops going to the Iraq war and 7,000 to Afghanistan, all as replacement units to deploy in the summer of 2009.
They are being alerted now to give them the most time possible to complete the training they will need for their missions and to allow "a greater measure of predictability for family members and flexibility for" their civilian employers, the department said in a statement.
The units for Iraq will be assigned a security force mission including base defense and route security in Iraq and Kuwait.
While active-duty soldiers and smaller Guard units and members have returned to Iraq for multiple tours, the Guard now is trying to send entire brigades back together to the battlefront on grounds they work more effectively as teams. Brigades generally have about 3,500 troops. Because people come and go from units, it's not possible to immediately determine how many of the people being sent will be going for repeat tours.
Right now Guard members account for roughly a fifth of the Army in Iraq and Afghanistan — dramatically lower than levels during part of 2005, when the Guard soldiers made up about 50 percent of the force in Iraq.
Under a Pentagon policy announced this year, Guard members will serve on active duty for a year.
Guard members are essentially civilian soldiers, who train on weekends and in the summer.