AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) - Ninety Maine National Guard soldiers will be staying home, instead of going to Afghanistan. Members of the Guard's 251'st Engineer Company, based in Norway, got their new orders on Thursday. The Army calls the order an "off ramp".
The 251st Engineers had been training for two years for the deployment, which was scheduled to start in September. It was a new and dangerous mission for the company.
They are now designated as "Sappers" - combat engineers whose job is to go ahead of other troops, and clear roads of bombs and other explosives, even enemy ambushes. Company Commander, Capt. Shannon Cotta, says the soldiers are glad to stay with their families, of course, but many are also disappointed they won't get the chance to use their training in the war zone. " That is why they joined," said Cotta. "It's a new generation of soldiers and there's an expectation to be highly trained and highly equipped to prepare to mobilize. "
However, Cotta and other Guard soldiers who have already had several deployments to Iraq or Afghanistan say they know how hard it is to be away from family for a year, and in harm's way.
Capt. Cotta says the 251 Engineers received extensive training at Ft. Leonard Wood in Kansas, to learn the latest high-tech equipment and techniques for finding and safely detonating a variety of bombs, mines and other explosive devices. And while the unit has now been "off-ramped", it will still be eligible for deployment during the next year.
Cotta and others say that means the company will keep training to remain at 100% readiness, in case the call comes.