(AP) - About 3,500 Wisconsin National Guard troops are preparing for several months of training in Florida and Texas, ahead of a previously announced Iraq deployment expected to last about 10 months.
It will be the largest deployment of Wisconsin National Guard troops since World War II.
Soldiers in the affected units have been on alert since December 2007 and had been expecting the order.
Troops are scheduled to leave for Florida on Jan. 10 for several weeks of training. Then they return to Wisconsin until mid-February, when they'll head out for a few more months of training at Fort Bliss in Texas.
After that they'll be sent to Iraq for a tour of duty that will last about 10 months.
The troops received notice of the call-up in September, giving them time to wrap up loose ends.
Capt. Chad Hollenbeck, the commander of the 1st Battalion, 128th Infantry Delta Company based in River Falls, said he's been making sure bills are ready to be paid and projects are wrapped up around his Cleghorn home.
"It is kind of nice that we got the holidays," Hollenbeck told the Leader-Telegram newspaper in Eau Claire.
The 32nd Brigade is made up of units in 36 Wisconsin communities. Defense officials have said the brigade will have a security force mission.
Guard commanders said earlier the troops have amassed so much experience that the brigade might be in its best shape ever to handle a massive deployment.
More than half of the 3,500 or so soldiers are combat veterans and many already have completed tours in Iraq, resulting in better preparation that should help save lives, said Wisconsin Army National Guard Brig. Gen. Mark Anderson.
"We have a lot of operational experience we didn't have before," Anderson said in October. "It should translate into a much smoother transition ... to the theater of combat."
The 32nd Brigade is made up of units in 36 Wisconsin communities. Most of the brigade is made up of part-time soldiers from around Wisconsin, although several dozen soldiers from Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota and Michigan also belong to the unit.
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)