4,000 Florida National Guardsmen to be called up for active duty

More than 4,000 Florida National Guard soldiers, including some 600 from South Florida, are to be called to active duty in the next few months in what is the largest mobilization in state history.

Most of the troops called up will be deployed to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to Guard spokesman Lt. Col Ron Tittle. Others could be assigned to federal security missions in the United States.

”I’m not sure what to expect,” said Coral Springs resident Ernest Mason, 20, who will leave behind his wife of four months, Camilla, when he heads to a yearlong combat tour in Iraq with the 124th Infantry’s First Battalion. “It’s a worry. But I’ve thought about being in the military since I was 14. I’m getting as much training as I can.”

Florida Guardsmen will also be sent to Afghanistan as part of the Obama administration’s plans to double the number of U.S. troops there, even as the draw-down of forces in Iraq continues. There are now 40,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, and 142,000 in Iraq.

President Barack Obama announced that the U.S. combat mission in Iraq would end by September 2010, but he has not set a timetable for U.S. involvement in Afghanistan.

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