Guard readies for war

Published 4:00 am Saturday, December 25, 2010

As members of the 1165th Military Police Company prepare for a year of service in Afghanistan, they and their families are also celebrating Christmas at home before their departure.
Andi Floyd, who has lived through military service with her father and now with husband, Sgt. David Floyd, said the deployments are always difficult.
“The separation gets worse and harder each time it happens,” she said. “I know this is their jobs, but it doesn’t get any easier. We have a couple of godchildren who will miss him just as much as if they were our own kids. I have a 17-year-old boy, but he lives in the world of teenager right now.”
Sgt. Frank Barnes, who is in charge of the Brewton part of the unit, said that the separation is worse for some than others.
“Everybody has different stress levels and everybody is different,” he said. “It’s hard to know what is really going on. Wives are left out of the loop, and sometimes the situation is not so good. It’s hard for us, too. It’s hard to go to bed every night alone and know that your family is nowhere nearby.”
David Floyd agreed.
“We are going to tell our wives everything and how it is,” he said. “It should be easy duty there, but we don’t know what it will really be like. The most dangerous thing we will probably do will be to escort fuel trucks on the highways.”
Barnes said the group will then report to Camp Shelby in Mississippi in January, where they will get additional training for about 28 days.
“Things have changed a lot since 1990 when the unit was deployed to Iraq,” Barnes said. “It was decided that the Guard would train themselves. In (pre-mobilization) they have learned weapons qualifications, First Aid and other tasks that everyone will have to know. We have also earned the respect of the regular military. We used to get hand-me-downs from them, but now we get better equipment and are not looked on as weekend soldiers.”
Members of the 1165th, some of whom are based at the Don Bryant National Guard Armory in Brewton, are not new to deployment. They served twice in Iraq, in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina, and in Salt Lake City during the Olympics.
“We will be on very different terrain in Afghanistan than we were in Iraq,” Barnes said. “We are going to Camp Eggars in Kabul where General Petraeus is.”
Gen. David Petraeus is the current commander of U.S. Forces in Afghanistan. Camp Eggars is a city in itself, surrounded by embassies from around the world and is perhaps the safest place to be assigned, Barnes said.
“Our job is to make sure no one gets to where they don’t belong,” he said. “Nationals are allowed on base and it is part of our duty to check and know everyone who comes onto the base. This is the first time a Military Police company is to be the security force for the camp. We are taking over from a transportation company.”
Barnes said that every soldier from Brewton has volunteered although they might not have used all of the “dwell time” to which they are entitled. Some individuals have been loaned out to other companies and would not be required to go this time.
The group will be deployed for a year to Camp Eggars. Their duties will be to guard the camp and the dignitaries that might visit. Barnes said the most dangerous duty they will have is to act as fuel escorts.
There are about 25 members of the guard who live in or near Brewton. Together with the rest of the company, 170 men and 18 women will be deployed.
The soldiers are not the only ones to be affected by the deployment. In many cases, parents, wives and children are also facing the separation from a loved one for a long period of time. Some are seasoned, while there are those who are facing it for the first time.
Barnes’ wife, Amanda, met the staff sergeant three years ago and they have been married for a little more than a year.
While he is on his way to Camp Shelby, she will be going through her own stress at home. She has a 7-year-old, Tyson, who is disabled and will have to have surgery, at least one time and maybe more.
“I have him to take care of, and that will take a lot of time,” she said. “Then I have my animals around the house to take care of. Frank has a son, Logan, who is 9 years old and he has been through this before. He is an amazing little boy and he loves his daddy.”
The group from Brewton will report to headquarters in Fairhope for a farewell ceremony to be held Jan. 3, 2011. The ceremony will take place at noon at Fairhope Civic Center, located at 161 North Section St.