Unit readies for war

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 26, 2004

The men and women of the Selma-based Army National Guard 122nd Corps Support Group are headed off to war.

The unit was notified to begin mobilization and soldiers are making preparations to join their fellow guardsmen in Iraq.

Lt. Col. John Crestwell said the unit will first receive training at a Georgia military base before being deployed overseas.

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“We have approximately 125 people in this unit, and one-third of them will be mobilized in early October for training in Georgia,” he said. “Those remaining here will join the first group in early to mid November.”

After several weeks of training the unit will travel together to Iraq, where they will handle security detail in an as-yet undetermined area in the country.

The 122nd Corps Support Group will serve as the security headquarters with 20 other units underneath them.

Crestwell said his unit would be responsible for the safety of truck convoys along supply routes and provide base camp “life support” such as food, showers, and other basic essentials.

“We are going to be replacing a unit that is leaving,” Crestwell said. “The typical stay in Iraq is 365 days, but that could change.”

Moral is high among the Selma troops, Crestwell said, with nearly everyone ready to go.

“This is the third rotation in Iraq, and we feel like it is our turn to go,” he said.

According to a press release issued by the National Guard, this week a total of 140,174 Army National Guard and Army Reserve troops have been mobilized to prepare for overseas deployment.

Along with the 122nd Corps Support Group, there were two other Alabama National Guard units recently mobilized by the Pentagon.

Soldiers with the Oneonta-based 278th Chemical Battalion and the 440th Chemical Company in Vincent and Clanton will be providing security in Afghanistan.

Alabama also has around 25 Army National Guard units currently deployed in Iraq and six units deployed in Afghanistan.

Crestwell said deployment to Iraq tends to be much harder for the families left behind than the soldiers themselves.

“These soldiers are going to miss Thanksgiving, Christmas, anniversaries and graduations,” Crestwell said. “We have Family Readiness Groups that can help family members deal with our absence and connect them with the state National Guard or assistance centers. The better we can help our people here, the less impact it will be for them in Iraq.”

Probate Judge Johnny Jones said he is working with the city and county to organize a big send-off for the troops before they leave for Iraq.

“A lot of cities do that for the troops,” Crestwell said. “We really appreciate this community’s support and it makes our guys feel good.”

The announcement of mobilization did not come as a surprise to the troops in Selma unit.

The 122nd Corps Support Group was placed on alert during the first of week of May and told to prepare for possible deployment to Iraq.

-The Associated Press contributed to this report