RealNews

Weekend Warriors Go Full Time

National Guard Deployment Is the Biggest Since World War II. Deep in “The Box,” big blue buses morph into rolling, apocalyptic explosive devices. Danger crouches in the high brush and glares down from the pines. Smoke and flame interrupt breakfast, obliterate lunch, upend dinner. Sleep is for the weak or the foolish. A tireless teenager’s constitution is all that keeps Bret Roberts, a 19-year-old National Guardsman from Depoe Bay, Ore., alert. Under the weary gaze of his squad leader, Roberts peers down a lonely Louisiana road as he leans hard into a belt-fed M249 machine gun capable of delivering 750 rounds per minute. “Looking for the big blue bus of love,” he says with the devil-may-care aplomb of a grizzled veteran. The bus Roberts is looking for is a prop, just as the explosions and the menace in the woods are artful fictions, all part of an elaborate training exercise concocted to prepare thousands of National Guard troops engaged in the biggest deployment of citizen soldiers in more than half a century. Sometime this spring, not long after Roberts and his pals leave the 200,000-acre training pod known as “The Box,” National Guard and reserve troops will come to represent nearly 40 percent of the 105,000 U.S. military men and women in Iraq. Full Story

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