Local Guardsmen deploy to Iraq

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 8, 2004

FAYETTEVILLE – The deployment ceremony for the North Carolina Army National Guard’s 30th Heavy Separate Brigade (HSB) was held here Feb. 12 at the Fayetteville’s Crown Coliseum.

There were more than 4,000 soldiers in desert camouflage uniforms and more than twice that many family members and supporters attending the send-off ceremony.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Richard B. Myers and Governor Mike Easley were the guest speakers.

The ceremony marked the end of a six-month training period and the beginning of the troop deployment to Iraq.

Among those leaving their families and loved ones behind to protect America’s freedom as well as protecting our nation from further actions of terrorism were approximately 20 soldiers from Ahoskie and the Roanoke-Chowan area.

Many of their family members also drove to Fayetteville and attended the ceremony.

The local National Guard unit is not deploying. However, some of its soldiers have been called up to fill shortages in other units who are deploying as part of the 30th Brigade.

These men have had to leave their regular jobs to be activated into Federal service as full-time soldiers.

They will go to the war zone and perform the same duties as regular active duty soldiers.

Their jobs and their families have been totally disrupted for the next year or maybe two years.

With that in mind, Ahoskie American Legion Post 102 has called upon the community to support the local soldiers and their families through prayer.

Among ways to offer support

is to look after the families who will be missing fathers, husbands, sons and brothers for the next 12 months or longer.

Pray for peace.

Meanwhile, the deployment ceremony for these brave men and women was very patriotic.

American flags were given to everyone at the entrance and they were proudly waved during the National Anthem and the singing of God Bless the USA.

Both General Myers and Governor Easley wished the citizen-soldiers a safe return home and promised to support their families while they served their country for the next 12 months.

The speakers also expressed concerns about the soldiers’ jobs when they return to their homes.

Most of the soldiers sat together on one side of the coliseum while about 500 of them marched onto the floor to represent the units.

It was a sight to behold, 4,000 soldiers looking sharp, ready for war.

At the conclusion of the ceremony, Governor Easley presented a North Carolina flag to Brigadier General Hickman, commander of the 30th Brigade.

He asked the general to fly the flag proudly at his headquarters in Iraq.

There were two generals attending the ceremony who recently visited Ahoskie – Major General William Ingram, Jr., adjutant general of the North Carolina National Guard and Lieutenant General Blum, Commander of the National Guard Department. Also attending were the commanders of Fort Bragg and the 24th Infantry Division.

This is the first time that a National Guard brigade has been activated and deployed since World War II.

The 30th HSB will replace other Army units in Iraq so that they can return home.

The guard soldiers are expected to be in the war zone for at least one year.