Gen. Hopkins to address national guard send-off ceremony

RIPLEY – Ripley native Maj. Gen. Al Hopkins, USA – Ret., will be the keynote speaker at send-off ceremonies for the Ripley National Guard unit Saturday evening, April 18, at the City Park Gymnasium. The unit leaves for Camp Shelby Friday, May 1, for training before its second deployment to Iraq. The approximately 45-member unit is officially known as Detachment 1, Company D, of the 106th Support Battalion. The unit helps maintain several different types of vehicles. The battalion’s parent unit is the 155th Brigade Combat Team. A private dinner for members of the unit and their families will be held at 6 p.m., and the public portion of the program begins at 7 p.m. Mayor Mike Harrison said. Planned for the program are an introduction and welcome of guests from the mayor, a color guard from the Ripley Police Department, a Pledge of Allegiance from the Boy Scouts, Erin Kuykendall’s singing of the National Anthem, a prayer by Staff Sgt. Jimmy Hutcheson of the Ripley National Guard unit, entertainment by Smooth Jazz and “Encore” from Erin’s Music Studio, comments from the Support Group’s Mrs. Brenda Wooley, an introduction of the speaker by Board of Supervisors President Jimmy Gunn, Gen. Hopkins’ speech, closing remarks by State Sen. Eric Powell, recognition of the unit by Staff Sgt. Hutcheson, and prayer of blessing and protection of the troops by Rev. Andy Stoddard. The program is being sponsored by the City of Ripley, Tippah County Board of Supervisors, Tippah County Development Foundation, Ripley Main Street, The Peoples Bank, American Legion, and VFW. The dinner is being catered by Country Inn Too. After leaving Ripley, the unit is expected to train at Camp Shelby for about 45 days, then depart for Iraq in June to begin a year’s tour of duty. The Guardsmen will likely be stationed southeast of Baghdad. Their jobs while in-country could include vehicle maintenance, FOB (Forward Operating Base) security, and running escort missions in Humvees. Although their mission is subject to change on short notice, at this point the unit is expected to spend its entire tour in Iraq, and not be redeployed to Afghanistan, unit officials have said. General Hopkins was born Feb. 14, 1941, in Ripley, and graduated from Walnut High School in 1959. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in History and English from Delta State College in 1963, and earned a Degree of Juris Doctor from the University of Mississippi School of Law in 1965. General Hopkins also received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Biblical studies from William Carey College and has completed additional studies at the University of Mississippi, Blue Mountain College, Oxford University and Jerusalem, Israel. He is married to the former Ruth Boyd (46 years) and they have two grown children, both lawyers, Ashley Anne and Norris. Gen. Hopkins is an attorney practicing in Gulfport. He served as Assistant Adjutant General of the Mississippi Army National Guard from January 15, 1992, to March 4, 1996. He presently serves as Chief Judge of the Court of Military Appeals, Mississippi Military Department.