Guard preps for Afghanistan: 'We could be the last big deployment'

SPRINGFIELD, Ore.-- Though the Federal government is shutdown, when it comes to the military, orders are orders.

Between 400 and 500 members of the Oregon Army National Guard are preparing to be deployed to Afghanistan in Spring 2014.

Due to the government shutdown, the training that was expected to begin last weekend has been delayed because many of those set to deploy are considered non-essential personnel.

"Eventually we will have to bring them all back and begin training," said Major Scot Caughran, 2-162 Infantry Battalion Commander.

Right now the National Guard Armory in northeast Springfield sits empty with only essential personnel keeping things active at a minimum level.

If the shutdown continues, the guard will be forced to classify all those being deployed as essential personnel as the date of deployment draws closer.

Once that happens, training will begin, possibly during the holiday season.

Though this isn't the first time members of the Oregon Army National Guard have been deployed to Afghanistan in the Global War on Terror, this is the first time the entire battalion has been ordered to Afghanistan.

Previously, the battalion was dispatched twice to Iraq where they lost nearly a dozen of their own.

With President Obama promising to reduce the number of troops deployed in Afghanistan by next spring in anticipation of the U.S. drastically reducing its presence in the country, next spring's deployment could signal the last large deployment of a battalion to the region decade-old mission.

"We've heard we could be the last big deployment, but we're not interested in the politics of it," Caughran said. "We have a job to do either way."