Arkansas Guard engineers get rousing sendoff

FORT McCOY, Wis. – With a thundering “Hooah,” the Arkansas Army National Guard’s 1037th Route Clearance Company signaled its readiness to make a difference in Afghanistan.

The approximately 200 person unit responded to State Command Sgt. Maj. Deborah Collins’ question during a brief sendoff ceremony here Monday, Jan. 25, 2010.

The 1037th – a combination of Soldiers from the 875th Engineer Battalion’s 1037th and 1036th Engineer Companies – are set to join the North Carolina Army National Guard’s 105th Engineer Battalion in Afghanistan in the next few days.  The battalion is made up of seven units from various states, and is charged with finding and clearing improvised explosive devices during a nine month deployment.

The 875th received a mobilization order in August 2009 for a portion of the unit to support overseas operations.  The 1037th began home station training on October 3 at Camp Joseph T. Robinson before moving to Fort Chaffee Maneuver Training Center.  The unit arrived at Fort McCoy in November for the final phase of training, and will depart for deployment sometime in the next few days.

“You’ve made us all proud, and you’ve made me proud personally,” said Maj. Gen. William Wofford, the adjutant general of Arkansas during the brief ceremony.  “The work you did getting here and in demonstrating just what a great military unit Arkansas can provide, is typical of the 875th.”

A contingent of top Arkansas Army National Guard brass traveled to Wisconsin to wish the troops a fond farewell.  The city of Jonesboro, Ark., where the 875th is headquartered, organized a separate flight to Wisconsin that included city and county leaders, and local media members.  Mayor Harold Perrin took an opportunity to let the Soldiers know they were appreciated in their own community.

“I’m so unbelievably proud of each and every one of you, and of the sacrifices you make and continue to make to protect our freedom and way of life that are immeasurable.  We are eternally grateful,” he said.

One of the ranking members of the Arkansas National Guard in attendance had a personal interest in the well being of the 1037th.  Col. Joe Moore, the director of military support, spoke to the assembly and to one Soldier in particular.

“I’m here to see you all off, and to see my number one son, Adam, off,” said Moore as he looked at his son.  “Lieutenant. Moore, it’s time for all young leaders to step up, to do your job and to get back.  I ask all of you to watch out for each other – to look out for my son – to take care of each other and we’ll see you when you get back.”

As the ceremony wrapped up, the unit asked the adjutant general to help take care of some last minute business.  Six young Soldiers received promotions and were pinned with their new rank by Wofford.  Wynn Thomas, Anthony Baker and Chad Murray were promoted to Private First Class, and James Jackson, De’andre Pierson and Alvin Creed were promoted to Specialist.

Maj. Gen. Wofford then presented Purple Heart medals to Spc. Anthony Taylor and Staff Sgt. Thomas Hart for wounds received during their last deployment.  The unit then fell out for lunch.

During his address, Wofford reminded the Soldiers that they would be facing challenges while they were gone.

“I’d like to share one thought with you as you get ready to leave,” said Wofford.  “This is a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., ‘The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.’  On the day you’re preparing to leave I think you need to be aware that there will be some challenges.  There is nothing that you, as individuals and as a team, can’t overcome.  Essayons,” he said, ending with the famed engineer motto, which is French for “Let us try.”

Capt. Chris Heathscott
State Public Affairs Officer
Arkansas National Guard
(501) 212-5020