January 2, 2008 Edition

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Cpt. Benjamin Joseph Vincent (right), commanding officer of the Apaches, visits with J.D. and Betty Johnson of Black Rock following the official send-off held on Dec. 18 at the First Baptist Church in Walnut Ridge. Members of the 39th Brigade will leave for Mississippi to complete their training sometime within the next week. From there they will depart to begin their second tour in Iraq.
TD Photo ~ Amber Adams

Guard prepares
for deployment

Amber Adams
Staff Writer

Members of the Arkansas National Guard's 39th Infantry Brigade Combat Team Company A, 2nd Battalion, 153rd Infantry, headquartered in Walnut Ridge, are making their final preparations before departing for Mississippi where they will complete the remainder of their training before beginning their second tour in Iraq.

The guardsmen are set to depart from the Walnut Ridge Armory sometime within the next week. With regards to the upcoming deployment, several events have taken place over the last month to honor the soldiers.

Local Girl Scout troops hosted a Christmas party at the Armory for the guardsmen and their families. Food and door prizes were donated for the event by local retailers. Over 70 soldiers turned out for the festivities along with their spouses and children. Several community members also attended.

A monument dedication was held Dec. 18, honoring the group's first tour in Iraq, which was about two years ago. A stone was placed in front of the Walnut Ridge Army Flying School Museum as a tribute to those who served with the 39th.

A "Salute to the Troops," was also held Dec. 18 as a formal send-off for the troops. The event was held at the Walnut Ridge First Baptist Church with several involved in the presentation. Members of the Walnut Ridge High School choir performed, as did Kristen Mengis of Williams Baptist College and Betty Johnson. Danny Vaughn led the soldiers into the sanctuary playing the bagpipes, and the children of the soldiers led the Pledge of Allegiance. County Judge Alex Latham, Rev. Dale Hughart, pastor of First Assembly of God in Walnut Ridge, and Dr. Brett Cooper of WBC all spoke during the ceremony. Debbie Spangler read a poem entitled, "A Soldier's Christmas."

Following the ceremony, each member of the unit was presented with a personal care package which included items purchased with funds collected by area churches. The Chamber of Commerce and the Ministerial Alliance coordinated the event, which was well attended by the public.

Though they have enjoyed a block leave, which allowed them to spend the holidays with their friends and families, members of the 39th will be returning to duty this week. They are set to leave for Camp Shelby in Mississippi by bus sometime within the next week, where they will spend four to eight more weeks training before their deployment.

Eleven other company level units will join the 39th Brigade, including the 87th Troop Command and the 142nd Fire Brigade. The 39th Infantry Brigade Combat Team will include Arkansans from 57 communities across the state and will represent approximately one-third of Arkansas's total force.

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