LANSING (AP) – Dan Clise and his wife, Alicia, are expecting twins next year. The 24-year-old wants to become a police officer, following up on his college studies in criminal justice.
But the Big Rapids native has other pressing concerns. He’s training with the Michigan National Guard for an upcoming deployment to Afghanistan.
Clise, an Army first lieutenant, is one of roughly 2,000 Michigan-based Guard members deployed in 2011. That’s the largest contingent deployed from the state since 2005.
Clise says the toughest part of the one-year deployment will be missing his family. That’s part of the deal these days when joining the National Guard, which is heavily relied upon for national security and armed forces deployment around the globe.
“You join expecting to get deployed,” said Clise, who worked as a security guard at a nuclear power plant before shipping off to train in Mississippi at Camp Shelby a few weeks ago. “You join so you can serve your country, so you can do your duty. That’s what it’s all about.”
Roughly 1,200 Michigan National Guard members are training at Camp Shelby. They had deployment ceremonies all over the state including Grand Blanc, Midland, Detroit and the Grand Rapids suburb of Wyoming in recent weeks.
A decade ago, overseas deployment was not nearly as common for National Guard members. Most could sign up expecting limited disruption in their civilian lives, typically occasional weekend training and short deployments within the United States for disaster-related duty.
That all changed after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks prompted unprecedented call-ups of National Guard troops to active duty.
Fewer than 100 Michigan National Guard troops were deployed in 2001. That number swelled above 1,000 a year by 2003, mostly connected to military action in Iraq. The number of troops deployed since has fluctuated from year to year, with a peak of more than 2,500 in 2005.
Maj. Bill Humes, a 41-year-old Perry resident who previously was an ROTC instructor at Central Michigan University, is one of the many 1st Battalion, 125th Infantry members who spent most of 2008 in Iraq. Now, he’s getting ready to go to Afghanistan.
“It would be a rarity now if a soldier joined without expecting to deploy,” Humes said.
Michigan has more than 11,800 National Guard members, 15th most in the nation. Texas and California have the largest National Guard membership with more than 20,000 each.
Changes in U.S. military commitments likely will affect the number of troop deployments moving forward.
All U.S. troops are scheduled to have left Iraq by the end of this year, President Barack Obama said Friday. The U.S. expects to bring most forces home from Afghanistan by 2015, with many of them departing this year and in 2012.
But the National Guard will remain active somewhere. Michigan-based troops have served in locations such as Africa, Germany and Spain this year along with duties connected to Afghanistan and Iraq. Michigan-based troops also have had missions to Kosovo and Egypt in recent years.
Roughly 90 percent of the National Guard’s strength is typically left available to Michigan’s governor is case of a state disaster or emergency.
“There are other missions. There’s always something,” said Capt. Aaron Jenkins, a Michigan National Guard spokesman. “The Guard is always going to be a relevant force.”
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.