Local soldiers heading to war

December 5, 2018

National Guard’s Apache Troop gets sendoff ahead of training, then deployment to Afghanistan

Citizen soldiers donned their uniforms and marched onto the stage of the Cedartown Performing Arts Center for a ceremony to wish them a safe deployment as they prepare to head overseas in 2019.

Harm’s way will be found in Afghanistan as Georgia National Guard members prepare for a third trip to the war-torn country in 12 years.

Apache Troop of the 1-108th Cavalry, a unit of the 48th Regiment in the Georgia Army National Guard gathered on Monday, Nov. 26 as they went off for one last training deployment to last until Dec. 21 before they are sent off to a combat tour overseas.

Family and friends joined in the ceremony that included addresses from State Rep. Trey Kelley (R-16th District,) The Rev. Ed Dickens, a retired Lieutenant Colonel and now pastor of Anna Kresge United Methodist Church, and retired Command Master Sergeant Paul Redgate.

Kelley said he wished the troops a safe journey to war and back and thanked them for their service and the great honor he feels having the chance to just be with Alpha Troop before their deployment.

“Our nation is one founded on grand ideals,” Kelley said. “We’re a nation that’s founded on life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, on the principal of all men are created equal… those were groundbreaking words, words that changed the course of history. But if it had not been for soldiers who had taken up the fight to gain us our freedom, those words would be worth nothing more on paper than the one I hold here.”

He reminded Troopers that much like those chosen to serve with Gideon in the story from the Old Testament book of Judges, they too were called upon by God to defend the United States.

“Whatever has happened in your life, whatever choices you made that brought you here, God has chosen each and every one of you to serve his purpose,” Kelley said.

Lt. Col. Ed Dickens (Retired) also spoke, and though he said he’s usually the preacher among the group as the pastor of Anna Kresge United Methodist Church, he instead brought with him words of advice about what he learned from his own service.

He called upon the young troopers of the 108th to remember to listen to the non-commissioned officers and leaders in the field, as they have built up years of experience gained through a rebuilding of the Army. He said that process began from when his service started in the late 1970s, to when it ended as the head of the ROTC program at North Georgia University after the Gulf War and into the early 2000s.

He also called on the community and loved ones to act as a support system for the troopers heading into the field.

“I know well, my wife reminds me often how many times I left her and how many times I left them (my children),” he said. “It’s important to support the ones you loved while on deployment.”

Redgate, a Korean and Vietnam War veteran and retired Command Master Sergeant, spoke of his experiences in war. He told the Cavalry unit gathered they were going into combat having some of the best equipment available in the world, which wasn’t always the case.

He recalled going to war in late 1950 into Seoul with World War II equipment and not knowing whether he and his fellow soldiers would survive.

Redgate asked for all to remember Apache Troop in their prayers as they got ready for their deployment in 2019.

The ceremony was originally planned to be held at the National Guard Armory on Highway 27 south, but was moved to the Cedartown Performing Arts Center to allow for more people to participate.

Colleetoe Sanders provided renditions of The National Anthem and “God Bless America” during the ceremonies as well, leading the audience in the latter song.

McKenna promised that no matter what, they would bring every member of Apache Troop back home from their deployment.

Cedartown City Manager Bill Fann wrapped up his closing remarks with a command to Apache Troop’s Commander, Capt. Brian McKenna: “Take them to war.”

War is where they’ll end up. Apache Troop’s move overseas is part of a larger deployment of the 48th Infantry Brigade Combat Team to Afghanistan, their third overseas deployment to central Asia. They previously were deployed in 2009-10, and 2005-06.

Apache Troop’s roster of more than 80 men and women are part of a force of nearly 2,000 from the Georgia Army National Guard, with other armories based out of Calhoun, Canton and Dalton.

The mission according to previous reporting in the Rome News-Tribune is security-focused.

“We’re going to be charged with keeping certain people safe,” Major Will Parker said in a September story. He also stated at the time the unit may participate in other undisclosed missions during the deployment.

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