By CHRIS MENEES
It’s hot in Tennessee — but it’s even hotter for soldiers in Kuwait.
Temperatures have been running about 115 degrees each day and have risen as high as 120, according to Capt. Jacob Partridge, company commander of the Tennessee Army National Guard’s Union City-based 913th Engineer Co.
The 160-plus members of the 913th Engineer Co., part of the 194th Engineer Brigade, have been serving overseas in Kuwait since early October 2011 after being deployed in August 2011.
The local soldiers left Union City on Aug. 18, 2011, for a 12-month deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and spent over a month training at Fort Bliss, Texas, and in the New Mexico desert before flying to the Middle East.
Despite the hot and dusty conditions, “all the soldiers are doing fine,” Partridge said by telephone from Kuwait on Friday afternoon. Kuwait time is eight hours ahead of West Tennessee and it was 9:40 p.m. in Kuwait when the company commander called The Messenger at 1:40 p.m. local time.
“It’s been about 115 (degrees) everyday. The wind will blow 20 to 30 mph sometimes,” Partridge said, explaining there are sometimes dust or sand storms.
He said work is progressing well and everything is “going fine.”
“They are getting quite a bit done, despite all the challenges thrown at them,” he said. “They still produce and provide an excellent product with their work.”
While in Kuwait, members of the local Tennessee Army National Guard unit have completed several horizontal construction projects which have accumulated thousands of equipment hours and have included moving thousands of dump truck loads of soil or gravel. Projects have included construction and maintenance of lots used to store equipment or supplies throughout Kuwait, as well as some de-construction of facilities no longer needed, and construction and maintenance of several miles of road.
Partridge said the 913th had a platoon in north Kuwait that is now back with the rest of the company and has a platoon now over in Afghanistan which should be returning in the days ahead. The platoon in Afghanistan has been working on a priority engineer mission which the company commander said is basically a logistics hub that will aid in the retrograde of equipment and supplies out of Afghanistan when the U.S. forces draw down.
Home sweet home
The company commander said excitement is starting to build for the 913th’s anticipated return home in August after the one-year deployment.
“I’m not going to let myself get excited until I see my replacement,” he said, adding that planning is already starting for the huge task of packing personal items and unit equipment for the journey home.
The unit’s departure from Kuwait will involve a relief in place procedure, a tactical enabling operation in which a unit is replaced in an area by an incoming unit. Partridge said the incoming unit will typically spend one or two weeks with the outgoing unit and “shadow” the soldiers who have been serving in the area.
The 913th will come home by way of Fort Bliss, where they will spend about a week for military outprocessing, and will fly into Smyrna for some additional outprocessing before driving to Union City. Partridge said “the best guess right now” for the unit’s return to Union City is sometime between Aug. 9 and 18.
He said soldiers have truly appreciated all the care packages from home, but he said people back home should stop sending any packages after July 15 since there is a possibility they could arrive in Kuwait after the 913th’s departure.
“We appreciate all the thoughts and prayers,” he said. “The soldiers are doing a great job over here.”
Plans apparently are in the works for a community welcome which will include a parade and lots of banners the day the 913th rolls back into Union City in August, with full details to be announced closer to time.
The unit’s Family Readiness Group (FRG) currently has homecoming deployment T-shirts available for sale to the community, according to FRG president Sarah Kay.
“We hope to get the whole community to wear those,” she said.
The gray shirts will feature the 913th’s unit design on the front left chest and an American flag design with a quote from World War II era newsman and editorial writer Elmer Davis — “This nation will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave” — on the back. It will also include Operation Enduring Freedom and the dates 2011-12.
The shirts are $15 each for youth and adult sizes small to extra large and are $16 each for adult sizes 2X and 3X. Orders must be pre-paid with cash or money order to the 913th FRG and must be received by July 20. Order forms are available at the National Guard armory on East Reelfoot Avenue in Union City or more information can be found on the 913th Family Readiness Group’s Facebook page.
Mrs. Kay said the 913th’s Family Readiness Group and the local Veterans of Foreign Wars are also going to try to plan a welcome-home celebration which will likely be a family-type event in the fall — after the soldiers have returned and had plenty of well-deserved “home time.”
Staff Reporter Chris Menees may be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published in The Messenger 6.26.12