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South Bend mayor set for Afghanistan deployment

SOUTH BEND – The mayor of South Bend is making his final preparations before leaving the city for a seven-month military deployment to Afghanistan.

Mayor Pete Buttigieg, 32, is expected to leave Friday for the Navy Operational Support Center in Chicago and soon after that will head to Afghanistan.

He is a lieutenant in the Navy Reserve and will serve as an intelligence officer during his deployment scheduled to last through September.

“I’m so reassured by the people we have here, and confident in the ability to at least keep in touch with them, that I think everything’s going to be fine,” he told the South Bend Tribune (http://bit.ly/1hIdV9r ).

Buttigieg, who joined the Navy Reserve in 2009 and was elected mayor of the 100,000-person city in 2011, said it’s difficult to leave and that he expects to communicate with his administration via email and other online methods. He picked former city controller Mark Neal as deputy mayor last fall to fill in during his deployment.

“That’s allowed us to really gear up and prepare, and we’ve benefited from that,” he said. “It also helps that Mark’s been in kind of the core leadership team of this administration from day one.”

City Council President Oliver Davis said Neal was an excellent choice and that he has met with him ahead of Buttigieg’s departure.

“We are prepared for the transition, because the key thing is making sure (the lines of communication) stay in place,” Davis said.

Buttigieg said he didn’t know his exact assignment or where he would be based in Afghanistan – and that he has mixed feelings about the deployment.

“I am looking forward to doing my part over there,” he said. “I am less eager (about) being away from home and away from my job here in South Bend.”

Buttigieg was a Rhodes Scholar after graduating from Harvard in 2004 and was the unsuccessful Democratic candidate for state treasurer in 2010.

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