Sunday, January 1, 2017

Echo Company 39th Brigade Support Battalion Deploys

Soldiers of Echo Company salute the flag during the playing of the Star Spangled Banner.
Sixty-six soldiers from the Echo Company 39th Brigade Support Battalion based in Warren deployed Sunday, January 1, 2017.  They will first go to Fort Bliss near El Paso, Texas where they will spend about one month in preparation before leaving for Djibouti on the Horn of Africa, where the United States has an airbase.  They will provide logistical support for the airbase and will be gone 10-11 months.
Soldiers bow in prayer.
A ceremonial send-off was held Sunday, New Year's Day at 5:30 p.m. Families and friends gathered to share a meal with the soldiers and watch the ceremony before the group boarded chartered buses and were escorted out of town with law enforcement and Warren fire department escorts.  The American flag was flown atop the boom on one of the fire trucks.
Captain Stallworth and Mayor Martin

The unit commander is Captain Tony Stallworth.  During the ceremony, he spoke to the soldiers and their families.  Also speaking was Mayor Bryan Martin and State Representative Jeff Wardlaw.  Mayor Martin noted that the soldiers and their families were the VIP's of the gathering.  He wished them well, Godspeed, and safety and thanked them for their part in protecting America.  The family assistance coordinator out of Pine Bluff talked to the families and explained her office's role in supporting them while their family members are deployed.

In an interview with Captain Stallworth following the ceremony, he wanted to thank the people of Warren for their continued support of the National Guard in the community and for the city's assistance with the departure.

 The U.S. flag flew high above the Warren Fire Department's boom truck.
 For more photos click continue:

 Smiles mixed with tears as families said goodbye.

 Cell phones were busy recording memories.

 Anthony Sifuentes had a large gathering of family and friends to wish him well.
Guardsman Swannigan smiles as she stops for a photo with family and told that she is looking forward to going to Africa.

Families gathered with their special "heroes" to wish them well.

Photographer's note:  I was moved by the ceremonial send off of Echo Company in which I had several former students.  Watching them say goodbye to their families was difficult and very moving.
Beverly Reep with former student.
 As a U.S. History teacher, I found my heart swelled with pride and my eyes filled with tears that were hard to hold back.  I can honestly say the hugs were tighter than most I ever give or get.  I am reminded of Captain Stallworth's words spoken during the ceremony reminding all of us that we can talk to them via phone and can facetime with them.  I hope to be able to share this experience with my students of this year.  I was equally excited that several said they were glad they had to keep up with news from back home and lumberjacklive to watch the upcoming basketball games.  My how times have changed.  But one thing has not changed, these soldiers deserve our love and respect.
Mr. and Mrs. Anthony Sifuentes take a moment to pose with their former teacher. photographer and WHS teacher Beverly Reep wishes her former student Diedrick Rimmer a safe journey.

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