Henshon comes home from war
Published 9:01 pm Wednesday, October 8, 2003
By BY LYDIA GRIMES Feature Writer
He doesn't live in Brewton but he works here. At least he did before his unit of the Alabama National Guard was called to active duty in Iraq.
Joel Henshon is part of the 1165th Military Police, which also has a detachment here in Brewton. He was home recently on an emergency leave and came by Grady Automotive to a welcome home luncheon where he was welcomed back in style by his fellow employees.
Henshon comes from a family with military connections. His father was a retired warrant officer. At the young age of 17, Henshon joined the regular service. After two years, in 1977, he joined the National Guard unit that would become the 1165th Military Police Unit, Headquarters Company, based at Fairhope. The unit changed from an ordinance company to an MP unit about seven years ago.
As part of the 1165th MP unit, E6 Henshon was deployed in March of this year to Fort Benning, Ga. along with his unit from Fairhope and the unit from Brewton. They spent about two months there going through the training they would need in Iraq. He went as a cook but as the food is now brought to them, he has been given other duties.
In May, the unit was sent to Kuwait and joined the 214th Battalion, where they stayed about a month getting ready, waiting for equipment and adjusting to the extreme weather. After about a month they went into Iraq, south of Baghdad, to Base Camp Victory with the 168th detachment from Lebanon, Tenn. They did not sweep into Iraq as the earlier military did. Their purpose was to set up police stations and patrol the area. Setting up police stations has been quite a task as most Iraqi policemen left their post during the main fighting.
As a unit they have not come under any fire, but one group was ambushed on the way to work a couple of months ago and there were some injuries.
There was one night when the unit thought they were being attacked. The night the house was bombed where the two sons of Saddam Hussein were located made for some scary moments for the military.
That night brought about some changes in the way the military was accepted by the locals. It marked an attitude change and many more locals are now ready and willing to help with work and information.
Most of the people want to get back to some form of normalcy, Henshon said. Markets are open and more and more things are becoming available. Electricity is on part of the time. There is a lot of construction and traffic going on. The locals hired by the military appreciate the presence of the military.
War is never easy. Those who go and those who stay at home are always faced with the unknown and the distance from each other.
Henshon expressed the wish that those who are back in Alabama would write and send letters and cards to those who are in Iraq. He says it is so sad to see those that never get any mail from home. Anyone who would like to write or send things can do so by using the address of Capt. Christopher Butler, MWR Letters, 168th MP Battalion, 1165th MP Company, A.P.O. -- AE 99302-1322.
The weather is a continual headache for the military. Although the South Alabama men and women are used to hot weather, they are not prepared for the extreme heat they have found in Iraq.
It was announced a few weeks ago that the unit would be there for a year, which means they won't come home until sometime next year. The only good thing about that is the fact that it will give some a chance to take leaves.
Henshon is not in Iraq without family. He has two brothers already there in the 1165th and another brother coming soon who is with the 711th Signal out of Mobile. At least they are able to be together some of the time, he said.
Joel Henshon was born in Queens, New York and graduated from Richmond Hill High School. He comes from a large family of nine children.
While in Washington D.C. when he was in the regular army, he received a call from a friend living in Fairhope who wanted him to come down and work in auto sales.
He moved to Fairhope in 1976 to work on sales for about two years. He then worked as a mechanic at McConnell Auto and as a Mercedes Benz technician. He then worked at Grady Auto in Mobile as a BMW technician for about a year before going to Monnish Chevrolet in Foley for about four years. He next worked at Courtesy Chevrolet in Andalusia for four years. Grady Automotive called and wanted to know if he would be interested in coming to Brewton to work as the service manager in 1994. That was when the company took over from another auto dealer.
He has been married and has a 19 year old son who is thinking about making a career out of the military. He loves to hunt and fish. He says he is not that good at it, but he likes to play golf. He is looking forward to coming back to South Alabama and doing some of those things he likes and to those he loves.