Saturday, October 06, 2001

Harlan bids farewell to National Guard troops


They're off to help secure Fort Bragg

By Roger Alford
The Associated Press

        HARLAN, Ky. — About 1,000 people cheered and waved flags as Kentucky National Guard troops marched in formation to a parking lot where families and friends gathered to wish them well.

        The guardsmen were being deployed Friday as part of Operation Noble Eagle.

        “It's the most amazing thing I've ever seen,” said Capt. Anthony Brock, the company commander. “These people are so supportive.”

[photo] During the national anthem, members of the Harlan National Guard Company A, 1st Battalion, 149th Infantry salute during a community rally Thursday.
(The Associated Press photo)
| ZOOM |
        Capt. Brock is among 130 guardsmen leaving Friday for Fort Bragg, N.C., where they will provide base security.

        Usually such a farewell would be reserved for soldiers being deployed to some war-torn country overseas. But with the possibility of additional terrorist attacks on the United States, former Army infantry officer Ron Johnson said the reality is the Guardsmen “may be put in harm's way right here at home.”

        The Kentucky National Guard doesn't play down that possibility.

        “If there wasn't a sense of emergency on the part of the president and the national command authority, none of this would be occurring,” said Lt. Col. Phil Miller, a spokesman for the National Guard in Frankfort.

        Lt. Col. Miller said about 310 of the state's guardsmen in three cities have received deployment orders. That includes 110 infantry troops from Middlesboro who leave today, and 70 military police officers from Louisville who leave Tuesday.

        “The send-off that the soldiers are getting in Harlan is a great reflection of the community spirit that backs the National Guard,” Lt. Col. Miller said.

        Staff Sgt. Paul Johnson has said his goodbyes to his civilian colleagues and students at Cawood Elementary School, where he teaches. He said his wife and two daughters aren't happy about his deployment but that they understand.

        Capt. Brock, the company commander, expressed similar feelings.

        “Nobody wants to go to war, but that's what we're trained for and we're ready to go do it,” he said.

       



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