3,650 area soldiers called to active duty

BY PATSY R. BRUMFIELD

Daily Journal

TUPELO – Members of the Army National Guard's 155th Separate Armored Brigade headquartered on Jackson Street are taking the next step to possible duty in Iraq – they will mobilize for training at Camp Shelby near Hattiesburg.

“When” was the question Friday when word came from Guard state headquarters.

“They are staying in Mississippi to train – that's good news,” said Lt. Col. Tim Powell. “They could have mobilized to Indiana.”

At Camp Shelby, the brigade will be processed into active duty and train for three or four months before being deployed somewhere, perhaps the Middle East.

Tupelo's Command Sgt. Stephen Booker said Friday he expects to know by today if U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has signed the mobilization order.

“It looks like September,” Booker said, noting his date was just educated speculation.

The 155th counts about 3,650 soldiers and includes battalions stationed in McComb, Amory, Starkville, Meridian, Monticello, Hernando, Jackson and Tupelo.

Currently, personnel at Camp Shelby south of Hattiesburg are training about 4,000 troops from the Tennessee National Guard who began arriving last week.

“Word is the 155th is coming here, too,” said Col. Daniel Zajac, commander of the 3rd Brigade, 87th Training Division, which will train both the Tennessee troops and the 155th.

Zajac said lead elements of the brigade probably will begin arriving at the sprawling training base in late July.

In May, the 155th was placed on alert, which meant they should begin preparations, said Maj. Danny Blanton, a spokesman for the Mississippi National Guard.

“It's time for the individual soldier to get his affairs in order and not get caught off guard,” Blanton explained then.

“We could go to Iraq. We could stay stateside. It depends on the mobilization order,” he said in May.

Friday, it became clearer with word of the Camp Shelby assignment.

During the alert, the brigade reviewed personnel records to ensure its strength was up to the need, and to make sure equipment is combat ready.

The 155th is the state's largest support group with 49 locations. Known as “Dixie Thunder,” the brigade dates back to 1951 as part of the 108th Armored Cavalry Regiment. It became part of the 20th Armored Division in 1968 and later was renamed the First Brigade, 30th Armored Division.

The Army redesignated the brigade as the 155th in 1973 when the Pentagon broke up the 30th Armored Division. Its armored divisions consist of two battalions of M1A1 tanks manufactured for the U.S. Army in 1985 by General Dynamics Land systems.

The 155th was mobilized in November 1990 for Operation Desert Storm. After initial processing and soldier readiness training at Camp Shelby, the brigade moved to Fort Hood, Texas, and then to the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., for additional training.

The brigade was at Fort Irwin when the war ended and did not deploy overseas.

Contact Patsy R. Brumfield at 678-1596 or patsy.brumfield@djournal.com