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NC National Guard Prepares for Major Deployment

Nearly half of North Carolina's 11,700 National Guard soldiers are on alert for deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan next year. It will be their second deployment, and state officials want to be better prepared to help. "We learned some very hard lessons from their first deployment, so this time we're trying to do things better," says Diane Coffill, state family programs director for the North Carolina National Guard. "We didn't realize what the problems would be or the concerns of the families, because we were all just doing this for the very first time." So this year, North Carolina lawmakers agreed to spend $420,000 on family assistance centers in Greensboro, Greenville and Lenoir - which opened this week. Coffill says North Carolina is the first state in the country to fund permanent family assistance centers. Typically states rely on limited federal funds to open temporary sites. Coffill says each North Carolina center is open to active and retired military, as well as National Guard soldiers and their families who need help with health benefits, finances, or emotional support.