By WILL SULLIVAN/Item Managing Editor
Tuesday, July 13, 2004 1:29 PM CDT
A Company and other units of the Mississippi Army National Guard’s 890th Engineer Battalion took Sunday to recognize their families and communities who supported the unit’s members during their deployment to Iraq.
Lt. Col. Linwood D. Buckalew from the 184th Transportation Brigade in Laurel and Maj. Joe D. Hargett, who was the battalion’s training officer during its deployment overseas addressed the unit and its assembled guests Sunday morning at A Company’s armory for the recognition ceremonies.
Hargett went over a time line of unit’s deployment, including its Feb. 7, 2003, activation; April 1 move north into Iraq from Kuwait and the Sept. 12 attack on a convoy that wounded five members. He said that altogether, six members of A Company received Purple Hearts for wounds received during their 13 months in Iraq.
Hargett explained that he assigned A Company first to the 3rd Infantry Division, which bore the brunt of the Army’s fighting during the drive to Baghdad, then to the 82nd Airborne, because of unit’s demonstrated abilities. He said A Company also was the first unit of the 890th he sent north into Iraq.
Hargett said A Company was the first unit to harden its own vehicles with scrap metal, a practice which then swept across Iraq as other units sought ways to protect its soldiers from improvised explosive devices that were placed along roads to attack passing U.S. and other coalition vehicles. He said A Company was given 850 missions, all of which it successfully completed.
His primary message for the day, though, was, “Alpha Company, you’re only as good as the families who support you. The real heroes, in a soldier’s opinion, are the ones they left back home.”
Following talks by the two colonels, company commander Capt. Joy Alexander directed the distribution of presents to the company’s members, most of which they were to pass on to family members. Each soldier received an encased American flag memorializing their activation and deployment.
The City of Picayune and the Greater Picayune Area Chamber of Commerce also came in for recognition by A Company.
Nikki Smith, representing the chamber, received a flag mosaic for that organization’s support of the unit. Mayor Greg Mitchell received a National Guard statue for the city’s support of the unit.