Local veteran prepares for unique mission

WEST LOS ANGELES About 50 National Guard soldiers from an armory in West L.A. will be leaving for Afghanistan at the end of September to be part of the recent military surge.

By the end of the year, there will be troops in Afghanistan than in Iraq, and one local soldier says that will likely mean more casualties.

Monrovia resident Robert Parry will be on the ground in eastern Afghanistan by October, participating in a unique mission.

"We're taking National Guard soldiers whose backgrounds are in farming and business, and taking them in a security element over to Afghanistan to mentor Afghani farmers and grow the Afghan economy so that they can operate independently of the Taliban," he said.

Parry said the goal is to keep the Taliban from recruiting more insurgents. It will be a difficult task.

"The environment isn't any more lethal than it was three, four months ago. What's happened is that we've increased our operations tempo, and we're going out and finding opportunities to get into fights now," he said.

And the fights will continue. By the end of the year, nearly 70,000 U.S. troops will be deployed in the country.

After a dangerous Iraq in 2005, Parry says he's ready for the fight.

His wife can only hope that this year will go by as quickly as possible.

"It's a horrible time right now for me. I'm very worried about him, I'm worried for everyone that's leaving, there's a lot of loneliness," said Maribel Parry.

The National Guard troops will start preparing for their mission right away. Their first event will be held Saturday morning in La Habra. It will be a support event for all the family members of the deploying soldiers. It will be held at The Park, 1885 Hacienda Road, La Habra Heights, 90631.

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