Local troops activated for war
Published 11:19 am Wednesday, March 26, 2003
By By BILL CRIST – Publisher
On a sunny Saturday afternoon, over 100 local citizens gathered at Fort Don Bryant to wish our local National Guard detachment well as they prepared to leave for Fort Benning, Ga. The detachment was called up in response to our nation's conflict in the Middle East.
The public deployment ceremony was a time for the soldiers and their families to hear from civilian and military leaders as they prepared to undertake a role they were prepared for, but had hoped would not be neccessary.
By the time the detachment's convoy rolled through Riverview, East Brewton and Brewton on Tuesday morning, the reality that our nation would soon be at war had begun to sink in. On Monday evening, President George Bush issued an ultimatum to Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. His message was clear, "you have 48 hours to leave or you will face military action."
That action began at approximately 8:45 p.m. CST as cruise missiles were launched at Iraqi leadership targets. The line up of countries involved in the coalition is different than the last time war broke out in the region, but the mission is one that many people think should have been completed the last time our military was engaged there.
Twelve years ago, the 1165th went overseas to assist the military actions immediately following the first Gulf War. Following training at Fort Benning, the detachment will likely follow a similar course, working to ensure the safe movement of their fellow soldiers.
During Saturday's ceremony, Company Commander Capt. Chris Butler was presented an Alabama state flag to fly over the company's command post by Brigadier General Perry Smith. Smith said the flag had stood as a symbol for soldiers during the first Gulf War. It was a sign of somewhere they could turn if they needed to get something accomplished. He asked Butler to fly the flag during this conflict so that the troops who see it would also know they were in an area where they would be welcomed and any problems they had could be fixed.
Crowds lined the parade route the convoy followed Tuesday morning, from the airport to the northern outskirts of Brewton. The Brewton Lions Club posted American Flags along the route. Several school classes made and displayed signs offering their support with words of encouragement.
Those gathered along the route waved flags and held up their own signs offering prayers and best wishes as the detachment rolled toward Georgia. The convoy stopped briefly in downtown Brewton for one final word of encouragement from the mayor and to pick up bags filled with snacks and other treats for the road.
As much as the community offered its support for the troops, the commanders and city leaders also pledged support for the families of the servicemen and women in the detachment. Several local civic groups and churches are taking up donations and making prayer lists for those involved in the conflict.