HONOLULU - The Hawaii National Guard said Tuesday it will send 180 soldiers to Afghanistan early next year for a previously scheduled deployment that is not part of the president's buildup plans.
The 230th Engineer Company - which includes many troops who are carpenters, plumbers and electricians in civilian life - will do construction. It's replacing the 1613th Engineer Support Company from the Indiana National Guard.
The engineer company will be composed of 150 Hawaii troops and 35 from the Montana National Guard.
The unit has already started training for the mission and is expected to leave in late February or March. It is due back by the end of 2010.
"This is a military construction unit. They build stuff," said Maj. Gen. Robert G.F. Lee, commander of the Hawaii National Guard. "I think with the upcoming increase, surge, they will be gainfully employed."
President Barack Obama said Tuesday he would send an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan. Obama said the U.S. needs to reverse the Taliban's momentum and strengthen the capacity of Afghanistan's security forces and government.
About one-third have been deployed before, most to Afghanistan. Many helped build a 76-mile road from Kandahar to Taren Kot during a 2005 deployment.
About half the Hawaii soldiers are from Maui, half are from Oahu, and a small detachment is from Molokai.
Lee said he doesn't expect any Hawaii Guard troops will be included in Obama's buildup because a large percentage of the state's soldiers recently returned from a Middle East deployment.
"They're not on the rotation," Lee said.
About 1,700 soldiers with the 29th Brigade Combat Team came home in August from a nine-month assignment to Kuwait, where they provided security for installations and protection for U.S. convoys driving into Iraq.