HOUSTON – The 288th Sapper, Houston National Guard, is currently in training at Camp Shelby in Hattiesburg in preparation for deployment to Afghanistan this fall.
Capt. Brenton Montgomery said the deployment will mirror the unit’s last tour to Iraq.
“We here at Camp Shelby but will be back in Houston before we leave,” Montgomery said. “Sept. 28 is the report date for our unit and we will deploy Oct. 1.”
The unit will not be headed directly to Afghanistan, but will go to Fort Bliss, Texas for their final training.
“I guess you could call it our validation training,” Montgomery said. “It’s our final exam to show we’re ready. Then we’ll head to southern Afghanistan.”
The Sapper unit, formerly the 150th Engineering Battalion, will reprise their role of clearing and securing roadways and territories for incoming military.
“It’s a continuous thing,” Montgomery said. “We may not be the first ones in this time, but they go back and try to wreck the routes every day. It’s ongoing to clear and secure the routes.”
The one-year deployment will begin Oct. 1. The 288th Sapper unit consists of 106 members and about 95 will deploy, leaving a small crew at the local Armory.
Sending off the troops
Volunteers and members of the Family Support Group are already at work organizing a dinner for soldiers and their families prior to the deployment and are seeking volunteers to assist in several capacities.
The dinner is set for Sept. 30 at 5 p.m. at Parkway Baptist Church Family Life Center and volunteers are needed to help set up, serve and clear afterward. Barbara Klauser, Frank Pemper and Miriam Garner are spearheading the dinner and are hoping for a good response.
Anyone who would like to assist with the dinner, in service or with a monetary donation, may call Pemper at 456-5626 or 542-8433 or e-mail Garner at email@example.com.
Plans are also in the works for a traditional send-off on the Houston Courthouse Square for the morning of Oct. 1 at 10 a.m.
A route will be made public for citizens who wish to decorate or be present to send off the Sapper soliders.
“The biggest thing for the community to do is show up, decorate their yards and be ready to stand out on the sides of the road that day,” Garner said.
For the Sapper unit family dinner, Sept. 30. Prep, servers and clean-up crew volunteers call 456-5626 or 542-8433.
Lisa Voyles/Chickasaw Journal