Airborne Unit Heading For Sinai
FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. (AP) _ The 101st Airborne Division said farewell Monday to 800 soldiers embarking on a Middle East peacekeeping mission that ended tragically for 248 of their comrades last year.
″I guess it takes a lot of courage for the men to go back over there after that plane crashed,″ said Tresa McCreery, whose husband will be among those spending six months in the Sinai.
A similar detachment was heading home last December when an Arrow Air chartered plane crashed at Gander, Newfoundland, killing all aboard.
Mrs. McCreery said her husband, Sgt. Kevin McCreery, volunteered for the assignment, which will separate the Clarksville, Tenn., couple for the first time in their 10 years of marriage.
″He’s enthused about it. He strongly believes in what he is doing,″ she said.
About 500 people gathered for the half-hour ceremony during which Maj. Gen. Burton Patrick stressed the importance of the mission and the training the troops underwent to prepare for it.
″You’ve trained hard and you’ve worked hard and it has paid off,″ said Patrick, the division commander. ″You’re ready. I know it, you know it, everybody knows it.″
The unit will replace members of the 82nd Airborne Division who have been serving with the Multinational Force and Observers, an international organization created to help carry out the terms of the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty of 1979.
The first group was scheduled to leave Tuesday, but Capt. Randy Pullen, a Fort Campbell spokesman, said late Monday night that the mission had been delayed about a week due to red tape. Other Fort Campbell detachments are scheduled to leave Nov. 18 and Nov. 24. Pullen did not say if those had been delayed also.
A small advance party already has arrived in the Sinai to handle logistical and administrative matters.
After the ceremony, Patrick said the disaster at Gander ″was on everybody’s mind when the troops started training but we tried to concentrate on what we need to do to complete this mission.″
Since the crash, the Pentagon has ordered that military aircraft be used to carry the soldiers traveling to and from the Sinai.
″Chartered airplanes have a place in our country and in our economy,″ Patrick said. ″It’s just a matter that we have to make them safe.″
Cpl. Ralph Hedden, 23, from Batesville, Ark., said he was ready to leave and noted that the detachment will be using military aircraft ″and it will be safer this time.″
Although most of the contingent is from the 3rd Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, Army officials said that nearly every unit at the fort is represented by the aviators, artillerymen, military policemen, mechanics and other specialists.
Patrick concluded the ceremony with this promise:
″We will all gather at Campbell Army Air Field in April to give the task force a warm welcome back to Screaming Eagle country, to give them the hugs and embraces they will have richly deserved at that time.″