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202nd gets farewell before third Afghanistan deployment

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With the future of the U.S. role in Afghanistan in question, several hundred soldiers gathered at Fort Gordon's Barton Field to say their goodbyes Tuesday before their deployment next week.

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Col. Lawrence Mixon speaks during a deployment ceremony for the 202nd Military Intelligence Battalion at Fort Gordon. This will be the unit's third tour in Afghanistan.  Jackie Ricciardi/Staff
Jackie Ricciardi/Staff
Col. Lawrence Mixon speaks during a deployment ceremony for the 202nd Military Intelligence Battalion at Fort Gordon. This will be the unit's third tour in Afghanistan.

This is the third time the soldiers of the 202nd Military Intelligence Battalion have been sent to Afghanistan, and their fifth deployment since November 2001. They were last in Afghanistan from November 2007 to May 2008, where they gave intelligence support to NATO operations in the country.

Col. Lawrence Mixon, the commander of the 513th Military Intelligence Brigade, said that this time the battalion's mission will focus on gathering human intelligence for U.S. and coalition forces -- including interrogating and debriefing prisoners taken off the battlefield.

"There will be a core group at the interrogation center, and teams will be deployed elsewhere in direct support of troops," said Col. Mixon, who declined to say where the troops will be sent.

The unit's departure comes at a turning point in the 8-year-old war against Taliban forces. Casualties are rising, and the Obama administration is wrestling with the prospect of sending tens of thousands more troops or overhauling the U.S. strategy.

On Saturday, a fierce gun battle killed eight U.S. soldiers and two Afghan security troopers after hundreds of Taliban militants overwhelmed their remote outposts. It was the heaviest loss of life in a single battle since July 2008.

And on Monday, election workers began recounting suspect ballots in August's disputed presidential vote. A ruling on whether President Hamid Karzai won or will have to face a runoff is likely next week.

Col. Mixon hinted at the turbulent times ahead in his remarks to the soldiers. He equated their deployment next week to the uncertainty felt in 2001, when the battalion was sent to Afghanistan less than two months after the 9/11 attacks.

"Now after eight years and three more deployments, the 202nd deploys to Afghanistan at a crucial time in the conflict," he said.

Currently, 969 Fort Gordon service personnel are deployed overseas, mainly to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In addition to the Army, these include personnel from the Navy, Marines, Air Force and medical units, according to Marla Jones, a Fort Gordon spokeswoman.

Associated Press reports were used in this article.

Reach Adam Folk at (706) 823-3339 or adam.folk@augustachronicle.com.

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jsherrill
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jsherrill 10/07/09 - 01:36 am
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I am proud of all the men and

I am proud of all the men and women in uniform. My prayers go with you and for your families that await your return. God bless and keep you all.

mercyme
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mercyme 10/07/09 - 07:00 am
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A big thank you to all of the

A big thank you to all of the soldiers that sacrifice their lives so that we as people can have freedom. May God bless you and keep you in His loving hands and watch over you!!

xanadu
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xanadu 10/07/09 - 07:54 am
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Here's to a safe return home,

Here's to a safe return home, 202! Blessings to you and your families.

dont live there anymore
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dont live there anymore 10/07/09 - 02:05 pm
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Thank you for what you do to

Thank you for what you do to keep us safe in our Country but also to help Afganis. May God Bless you in all that you do.

Brad Owens
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Brad Owens 10/07/09 - 03:21 pm
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513 MI BDE never gets a rest.

513 MI BDE never gets a rest. Good luck and God bless.

proud2bamerican
441
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proud2bamerican 10/11/09 - 08:04 pm
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God bless each and every one

God bless each and every one - they could not have a better brigade commander!!

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