AUGUSTA, Maine — The Westbrook-based 262nd Engineering Company of the Maine Army National Guard, heavy equipment operators who have been training and preparing for months to deploy to Afghanistan this December, learned Wednesday their deployment is canceled.
“We have been aware for some time that there was a possibility that the 262nd Engineer Company would not deploy, given the drawdown of our forces and the transition of the mission in Afghanistan,” Brig. Gen. James Campbell, the Adjutant General of Maine, said in a statement announcing the cancellation.
The 262nd is headquartered in Westbrook and has a detachment in Belfast.
Campbell was notified by the National Guard Bureau that the unit mobilization was canceled by the United States Central Command as a result of the President’s order to reduce US military forces in Afghanistan to less than 9,800 personnel by the end of 2014.
“This cancellation marks the first time since 2003 that we do not have any Maine Army Guard units deployed or readying to deploy,” Campbell said. “For many of us this is a significant adjustment. However, the high state of professionalism, morale, and readiness in the 262nd Engineer Company and all of our units will not change — we will remain fully prepared for any mission in support of our citizens, both at home and abroad.”
The 262nd has 150 members and is comprised mostly of heavy equipment operators who trained to deconstruct buildings and existing structures and build earth-filled barriers to help remove some of the footprint American troops have left after more than a decade of fighting in Afghanistan, Sgt. Angela Parady of the 121st Public Affairs Department based in Augusta, said in January.
The cancellation means a big change in plans for the soldiers who were preparing to leave, Campbell said.
“The Maine Army National Guard staff is quickly evaluating the impact of this announcement and will ensure that we support our Soldiers and their families as they transition back to a more regular training cycle and adjust to the cancellation of their combat deployment,” Maine’s adjutant general said.