Guard set to deploy
Posted: Thursday, June 11, 2009 9:02 pm
CLEVELAND (AP) — A new Tennessee National Guard unit is getting ready for training and deployment to the Persian Gulf.
The Cleveland-based 252nd Military Police Company is made up of mostly young members, who are preparing for deployment from scratch.
Sedara Bond of the unit’s Family Readiness Group told The Chattanooga Times Free Press most members of the company are right out of high school and going overseas will be a “really big step” for them.
“They’re kids, and they just don’t know what to expect,” said Bond.
About 170 soldiers from the 252nd will leave on July 29 to train at Fort Dix, N.J., for about six weeks, then deploy to Iraq for about a year, said Tennessee National Guard spokesman Capt. Darrin Haas.
The soldiers will come from the unit’s headquarters in Cleveland and from its detachment in Alcoa.
Capt. Darrel T. Hull, unit commander, said he estimates about 80 percent of the unit is new and the rest are former members of the 278th Regimental Combat Team, which deployed in 2004 and 2005.
The National Guard recently transformed the unit from cavalry to military police and assigned several new recruits.
“It’s always nerve-racking (with new people),” Hull said. “But we’ve got enough people that have had some experience, and the training that we’ve been doing has really prepared us for the job.”
The police transition team will teach Iraqis police operations and assist in the transition as U.S. forces withdraw from cities this summer, Hull said.
“It’s training them (Iraqis) on actual police station operations,” the commander said. “We want to make it so they have their own police stations, manage their own police force and interact with the public. We’re setting them up for success so they can have their own security forces without us.”
Bond said that because they have so many young people in this unit, she’s trying to rally local residents and families and friends to provide support for the Guardsmen while they are gone.
She’s asking that community members, churches and other groups “adopt” members of the unit before they deploy and said it’s especially important for those who are young or who don’t have parents, wives and children close.
“A lot of these people just don’t really have anybody,” she said.
Bond is also working with some of the soldiers’ wives to teach them basic self-sufficiency.
“We’ve got young wives who’ve never paid bills before,” she said. “We had one that we had to give a crash course in how to write a check, because she had never written a check before.”
Information from: Chattanooga Times Free Press, http://www.timesfreepress.com
Published in The Messenger 6.11.09