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Maine National Guard Unit's Deployment Canceled Amid Mission Uncertainty

AUGUSTA, Maine - The 136th Engineering Company of the Maine Army National Guard was scheduled to be deployed to Kuwait next year, but that deployment has now been canceled amid questions from the Pentagon about the structure of the Maine National Guard.

Maine's new adjutant general, Air Guard Brig. Gen. Gerry Bolduc says no final decisions have yet been made.

This week has been one of turmoil for the state’s National Guard. Gov. Paul LePage fired Adj. Gen. James Campbell Tuesday, saying Campbell had not been clear about his role in a plan to restructure Maine’s National Guard as part of a national effort to reorganize guard units.

Then the Pentagon sent word Wednesday that the planned deployment of the 136th Engineering Company to Kuwait was being canceled because the unit was scheduled to be retrained as an infantry company after it returned. That fueled speculation that Campbell’s plan to convert several engineering units to infantry was still in play after the governor said it was off.

Bolduc says no final decisions have been made in Washington, but he is confident the issue will be settled in in a way to benefit Maine’s guard. "There is a sense of relief from them that at least something is happening in making a decision on the 133rd - and they are relieved to hear that. They deserve to know."

The 136th company is part of the 133rd Engineering Battalion. Bolduc says he has been in communication with Army National Guard leaders in Washington and with Gov. LePage and plans to meet with the governor on the issue next week. He pledges a transparent administration of both the Guard and the other bureaus in the Department of Defense, Veterans and Emergency Management that are now his responsibility.

Bolduc says it has been a busy four days on the new job, "challenging and a little bit daunting at times."

As for members of the 136th, there is some disappointment about the cancelation of the deployment. Sgt. Paul Kedzierskr is with the 136th. "A little bit disappointed," he says, "because we won’t be able to go overseas and perform the engineer mission over there. Other than that, I am excited to stay in the state of Maine and do our mission here."

The issue of how Maine’s guard units will be structured and their mission is part of a national debate over military reorganization after more than a decade of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. A congressionally mandated study of the future of the Army and Army Guard has just gotten underway.

Journalist Mal Leary spearheads Maine Public's news coverage of politics and government and is based at the State House.