The Alabama Army National Guard’s 1/167th Infantry Battalion, headquartered in Talladega, has been called to active duty in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
The 1/167th will depart for a mobilization station next week before deploying to Afghanistan several weeks later, the guard announced Friday.
Farewell ceremonies are planned in Talladega and Sylacauga this week. Talladega’s ceremony is Thursday at 1 p.m. at the Talladega National Guard armory. Sylacauga’s service is Friday at 3:30 p.m. at the Sylacauga High School auditorium. The public is invited and encouraged to attend.
Other departure ceremonies are scheduled for Friday in Pelham, Cullman and Oxford. Local officials and senior Alabama National Guardsmen will attend each ceremony.
Talladega Mayor Larry Barton said he is hoping for “one of the biggest crowds ever” at Thursday’s ceremony.
“Having been involved in military for six years and having been overseas for two years during that time, I am very much aware of the feeling you get when you have folks wishing you well when you leave and being there when you come home,” Barton said. “Talladega has always supported its troops, and I ask people to continue to show that support as these men and women leave. After all, they’re going so that we will have the peace and freedom to do what we want to do. We can’t give them enough thanks.”
Sylacauga Mayor Sam Wright also said the farewell ceremony is “vital” in showing community support.
“Everybody is aware of our troops in the Middle East who are in harm’s way every day,” Wright said. “Now, we have our own troops from this area to lift up in prayer and support. I urge everybody that can to please come out. Fill the building, line the streets, however you want to show your support. They need to see their town is behind them.”
Approximately 200 soldiers from Headquarters, Headquarters Company and Company E in Talladega will deploy, along with about 100 soldiers from Company D in Sylacauga.
“We’ve been training for this for the last one and a half to two years,” said Staff Sgt. Kenneth Corder of Company D. “We’re well-prepared, and we’re going to support the Afghan government in its mission.”
The battalion will be in Afghanistan for at least one year, conducting security force missions in support of the National Training Mission – Afghanistan, or NTM-A.
Each company’s Family Readiness Group has been working to prepare the soldiers and their families for the effects of deployment, said Company D group chairwoman Rebecca Milam.
“It’s slowly starting to hit the families that they are about to leave,” said Milam, whose husband is part of the deploying battalion. “I’ve been staying up nights on the phone with family members and on the computer for hours a day trying to help make it as easy as possible for everyone.”
The FRG arranges everything from financial assistance to children’s activities to help with household chores while the soldiers are away, Milam said.
“We do it so the soldiers are not so worried about their families,” she said. “We don’t want them to have that burden, because their only concern should be their own safety.”
Milam said the farewell ceremonies are important to the troops and their families.
“It would mean the world to them to have the community show their support,” she said. “It shows them that it’s not just the families going through this, but the entire community. It also tells them that everyone is there for them when they leave, and they’ll be here for them when they come back.”
The 1/167th has played a role in every major American war since the Civil War, according to a press release from the guard. The Alabama National Guard has called more than 18,000 personnel to active duty since 9/11 and remains a top contributor among the nation’s National Guard.
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