'Part-Time Soldiers' Ready For Full-Time Deployment
Posted September 29, 2003 6:08 a.m. EDT
DURHAM, N.C. — The U.S. Department of Defense has approved the Army's request to send North Carolina National Guard soldiers to serve in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The decision was expected; the 4,500 members of the Clinton-based 30th Heavy Separate Brigade were told in July to be prepared to deploy to Iraq.
Members of the brigade -- the largest in the state -- reported for active duty this month.
They may be called "part-time soldiers." But for the next 12 months, defending their country will be their full-time job.
Mobilization ceremonies were held over the weekend for brigade units based in Goldsboro, Dunn, Durham and Burlington. A North Carolina National Guard spokesman said additional unit ceremonies were coming across the state.
The armor brigade is comprised of 3,900 soldiers from North Carolina, with the rest coming from Illinois and West Virginia. The North Carolina National Guard said the mobilization is the largest of its kind for North Carolina since WWII.
"They've been training for years," said Capt. Robert Carver of the North Carolina National Guard. "Now it is time to get in the game."
Starting Oct. 1, the 177 members of the 230th Army National Guard unit -- which held a mobilization ceremony Sunday in Durham -- will be part of the Guard brigade headed to Iraq. They know their jobs.
"They are the supply and logisitics lifeline," Capt. Carver said. "Beans and bullets get to the places they need to get to."
Said Spec. Atiba Bowen of the 230th battalion: "Every day I hope and pray the world will lend us a hand."
The brigade starts a 10-day training program here at home. Then, the troops will move to other Army installations around the country. The unit is expected to deploy to Southwest Asia next spring, in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Members of the unit based in Burlington also had a chance to say goodbye to friends and family on Sunday. Other mobilization ceremonies were also held in Goldsboro and Dunn today.
Soldiers in Sanford will be recognized Monday.