It looks like tour number two in Iraq is imminent for about 40 or 50 members of the Utah National Guard's 1st Battalion, 145th Field Artillery.

An official "alert order" came from the Pentagon this week, letting Utah soldiers with the 145th know they should be prepared for a mobilization order.

"It's very vague," Guard spokesman Maj. Hank McIntire said about the alert order.

As of Wednesday, no one with the 145th knew exactly when they'll be leaving, where they'll be going or what their mission will be. The mobilization order, which could arrive within the next few days, will clarify those questions.

In all likelihood, however, upward of 400 145th soldiers, some of whom may reside in neighboring states, will be leaving in three or four months in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

"They'll be going into a combat theater," McIntire said.

Another 200 Utah Guardsmen from various units will also be leaving in the coming weeks to be part of a security force that will also probably deploy to Iraq.

The Department of Defense announced this week that more than 7,000 U.S. service members will deploy to Iraq in the coming months. A department official said Wednesday there are currently about 145,000 U.S. troops in Iraq. The American Forces Press Service also reported that two of the units being called up in the coming months have not been home the full year they expected since their last deployment to Iraq.

Unless some of the approximately 400 volunteer soldiers and airmen from Utah who are now deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan and the Philippines come home soon, as many as 1,000 Utah Guardsmen could be overseas at once.

McIntire said he expects some of those currently deployed to be home before the next round of more than 600 soldiers leave, which won't happen all at once.

"In terms of numbers, we're fine," McIntire said in an interview. "We can respond to local emergencies, local situations, as directed by the governor."

Utah has about 5,000 Army Guardsmen and about 1,500 airmen in the Utah National Guard.

Possible missions for the 145th, based out of Camp Williams, include providing actual artillery fire, security or detainee operations or a military police function.

Some members of the 145th previously served in Iraq while they were with the Logan-based 148th Field Artillery, which was absorbed into the 145th. Those soldiers returned home last November. Others with the 145th have also been to Iraq while serving with the 222nd Field Artillery, which returned last June.

In all, 450 Guard members make up Utah's 145th. Some, however, may not have to deploy for a variety of reasons that include family or medical situations. Those who are deployed with the 145th will likely train in this country for about three months before transferring to a mobilization station somewhere in the United States and then on to their mission overseas.


E-mail: sspeckman@desnews.com