By NEMS Daily Journal
Departures of three Mississippi National Guard units in Northeast Mississippi for war zone deployment drives home the painful reality that the United States is still fighting in Afghanistan, where our troops have had sustained operations for more than 10 years.
Thousands of the troops remain in the Middle East in or near Iraq, where fighting has officially ceased but insurgent and sectarian violence is persistent.
The 288th Sapper Unit from Houston left during the weekend after community ceremonies and a farewell celebration. Members of the 223rd Engineering Battalion of West Point also departed Saturday, and Sunday, the Aberdeen-based Forward Support Unit of the 223rd also departed. All will have additional training in Texas before heading to Afghanistan for a year-long deployment.
Hometown community support appropriately remains strong for the all the soldiers deployed to eventually fight in what is broadly defined as the war on terrorism – and for stability in Afghanistan, and in other cases, keeping a watchful eye on Iraq, whose future is uncertain.
Service in the National Guard changed dramatically on Sept. 11, 2001.
Since 9/11, about 1 million guard members have been deployed, some multiple times, and reliance on their foreign service has never been greater except in the early days of World War II, 70 years ago.
A significant portion of the force deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq continues to come from the Guard, official websites report. At one point in 2005, half of the combat brigades in Iraq were Army National Guard – a percentage of commitment as part of the overall Army effort not seen since the first years of World War II.
In late 2005 the headquarters of the 42nd Infantry Division returned from a one year deployment to Iraq, where it commanded both active and Guard brigades – the first time in the history of the National Guard that a Guard division commanded active Army brigades in a combat zone.
A little history is appropriate.
The Army National Guard is the oldest component of the United States armed forces. Militia companies were formed with the first English settlement at Jamestown in 1607, and militia regiments were organized by the General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1636. From then until now, the Army National Guard has participated in every war or conflict the United States has fought.
In addition, 2005 marked the largest deployment ever of National Guard troops in response to a natural disaster: Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
It’s fair to disagree with war policy; support of troops – volunteers obeying orders – is essential.