MONI BASU
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
August 14, 2008

A large contingent of Georgia Army National Guard soldiers flew to the Republic of Georgia on Sunday for joint military exercises at a time when tension is brewing in the region.

The soldiers, mostly from the metro area, will be part of “Immediate Response 2008,” which will amount to the largest U.S. footprint on the crossroads of Asia and Europe since the Cold War began.

The three-week operation also provides practical training for the 48th Infantry Brigade’s 1st Battalion, 121st Infantry Regiment just months before a pending deployment to Afghanistan.

“We’re going to a sensitive part of the world,” said Atlanta’s Maj. Matt Smith, 36, who took over command of 1-121 just last month.

“There has been significant geopolitical activity but it’s not our role to upset it,” Smith said. “It will be a unique environment, a unique opportunity.”

Last week, Russian fighter jets entered Georgian airspace and Georgia recalled its ambassador from Moscow.

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