BREWER, Maine — Four years ago, Capt. Paul Bosse was a member of a Brewer-based Maine Army National Guard unit assigned to convoy security and force protection in Iraq.
The tour lasted a year, and when Bosse and his fellow soldiers came home, their unit had lost two members. Staff Sgts. Dale Kelly and David Veverka died when a roadside bomb exploded in May 2006.
The same unit, Bravo Company of the 3rd Battalion 172nd Infantry, is set to redeploy overseas, this time to Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom — a deployment no less dangerous than the previous tour. Beginning in January, soldiers will conduct combat operations against al-Qaida and Taliban forces and work with the Afghan National Security Forces to fight terrorism.
“I wouldn’t call it frontlines, but it’s definitely boots-on-the-ground work,” Bosse said.
A send-off ceremony for Bravo Company will be held at 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 7, at the Collins Center for the Arts at the University of Maine. Gov. John Baldacci and Maj. Gen. John W. Libby will address soldiers during the send-off.
Bosse, an Old Town native and resident of Auburn, is now the company’s commander, but only about one-third of the 150 soldiers scheduled for deployment served with him in 2006.
“Infantry has become a younger man’s game,” he said Tuesday from the Brewer Armory, where Bravo Company of the 172nd is based.
“I’m considered old,” he joked.
Bosse is 36, but he is entering his 10th year as a guardsman and, before that, he was enlisted in the U.S. Army for six years.
President Barack Obama announced Tuesday that he will send an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan, pushing the total U.S. commitment in that country to about 100,000. Bosse said the policy shift in Afghanistan does not affect his company.
“We’ve known about our deployment for a couple years now,” he said. “In some ways, that’s good because we’ve had plenty of time to prepare, but it’s also been hanging over us for a while too.”
Bravo Company recently returned from a three-week training session in Louisiana and will spend another four to six weeks training in Indiana, with a brief holiday break during that period. The 172nd Infantry, which includes other companies from New England, will head overseas sometime after the first of the year as part of an Army brigade.
By early 2010, the Maine Army National Guard will have deployed about 50 percent of its force overseas to Iraq or Afghanistan. The 133rd Engineer Combat Battalion, with 540 soldiers, returned from Iraq in 2005 and tentatively is scheduled to redeploy to Iraq in early March.
Since 2001, the Maine Army National Guard has sent more than 2,300 men and women to Iraq and Afghanistan. Nine have died.