BOONEVILLE – Prentiss Countians showed up in large numbers to see their soldiers off Wednesday.
More than 500 residents, law enforcement, military personnel and state dignitaries participated in the sendoff ceremony for the 127 soldiers of B Troop 1/98th Calvary Regiment of the 155th Brigade Combat Team.
Flags waved, patriotic posters lined the walls of the Prentiss County Agri-Center and families sported T-shirts and buttons with pictures of their soldier.
The unit is made up of rookies and men who were deployed to Iraq in 2005. Even though he hasn’t been deployed, Lt. Jason Odom is confident.
“I have no worries,” said the Mobile, Ala., native. “I’m happy with the guys I’m going with. We are well trained and well prepared. We are the best unit in the state and I’m not afraid to say it.”
Unlike Odom, it’s unit commander Capt. Kenneth Anthony’s third deployment. He served with the unit in 2005, then with another unit in 2007. He said he knows this mission won’t be easy, but the community support gives his unit confidence.
“This is a great feeling to look out and see all these people here for this unit,” he said. “It shows that we aren’t in this alone. Every man and woman in this unit volunteered to do this job. Many signed up knowing they would be going back and that didn’t stop them. We are a close group and close community and It shows today.”
While the soldiers were locked into formation, one proud and nervous mom, Chamila Brown, snapped pictures of her son, Pvt. Jamie Felix, a Tupelo Police officer.
“Jamie is 19 and he joined the Guard when he was 17,” said Brown. “I am so proud of him. This was the first decision he made as an adult and I support him. He wants to serve his country and that makes me proud. I have confidence that the Lord will bring him home to me safely.”
Like his mother, Felix is nervous about his deployment.
“I’m a little nervous because I’ve never done this and don’t know what to expect,” he said,” but I’m well trained and have great leadership, so I’ll be fine.”
This deployment will be different from the previous one, said Anthony. In 2005, he said the unit was on a peace and security mission where they operated in a central area that they controlled. But this time they will be part of a security mission where they escort convoys from place to place.
“The first time we had control over a certain area,” Anthony said. “This time we have no control over the area because we’ll be on the roads and that’s still where the threats are.”
The unit also had to re-train for this deployment because they were a tank troop in 2005 and now they are a reconnaissance troop.
The unit will head to Camp Shelby May 1 for additional training and are expected to enter Iraq by mid-summer. They are expected to return in the spring of 2010.
Contact Danza Johnson at (662) 678-1583 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Danza Johnson/NEMS Daily Journal