Calera unit deployed: 48 soldiers from local regiment prepare for Iraq

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 11, 2007

DALEVILLE &8212; The first battalion 131st Armor regiment of the Alabama National Guard left for Fort Dix, N.J. on Friday, where they will train for several months before heading to Iraq as part of a one-year deployment.

The 170-man regiment left from Daleville&8217;s National Guard Armory; 48 of the soldiers are from Calera&8217;s National Guard unit.

On the cusp of 12 months away from home, two days after a Fourth of July deployment ceremony, soldiers from Calera&8217;s C Company said they were ready to put their skills to use and do what they&8217;ve been training to do for the last year.

Jimmy Smith, 20, said, &8220;We just want to bring everybody back home safe.&8221;

The soldiers listed friends and family as what they&8217;ll miss most about Shelby County. Hearing this, Staff Sgt. Mark Allred pointed at the soldiers and said, &8220;There&8217;s our family for the next year.&8221;

Chris Corona, 20, played football at Montevallo High for Allred, and his father served as well in the U.S. Army. &8220;This just feels like what I was meant to do,&8221; he said.

Platoon leader Lt. William Hurd said he was especially proud of a lot of the younger members of the unit because they joined knowing they would most likely be going to Iraq.

&8220;I have a lot of respect for the younger guys in my platoon who have joined since 9/11, especially when the guards started getting called left and right,&8221; Hurd said. &8220;They knew this was probably going to happen.&8221;

Hurd said he went to Iraq as part of a different National Guard unit in 2004 and that the mental adjustment is the toughest part at first, preparing for what you might have to deal with &8220;because you have to be able to expect anything and be able to react to it.&8221;

He also said there tends to be a view on television focusing on the negative aspects of the war, with little mention of new school buildings and hospitals under construction there.

Hurd said local support of U.S. troops in Iraq varies from city to city, depending on the progress of rebuilding efforts and whether or not it is a Sunni or Shiite-controlled area, but positive experiences he&8217;s had have given him a belief he&8217;s doing the right thing there.

He said his unit has traveled through the middle of a city and &8220;there are civilians at the side of the road clapping and saying they love us.&8221;

&8220;We&8217;re doing a lot of good over there,&8221; Hurd said.

Soldiers leaving from the Calera unit are: Billy R. Adams, Joshua D. Alexander, Mark S. Allred,

Jimmie D. Barth Jr.,

Michael W. Belk, George S. Billits, Adam W. Brasington, Bryan Brookshire, Thomas A. Bowers, John J. Carden,

Christopher J. Corona, Harold B. Crew, Jessie J. Deramus, Byron Elkins, Patrick Enoch, Donald E. Fowler, Vance G. Gettis,

and David Z. Green.

Also, Joseph L. Green, David L. Haley,

William M. Head, Christopher L. Hitchcock, Joshua A. Holtum,

Sherman D. Huckaba

William Hurd, Richard K. Johnson, Joseph A. Lasiter,

Willie G. Locke, Justin A. Massenburg, Ray E. Mock II,

Walter D. Nowling, Daniel W. Peterson, Jonathan E. Poarch, Tonny L. Pridgen, Christopher R. Sample and Alex D. Serota.

Also, Jackie L. Simmons,

Roy M. Sosebee Jr., Jimmy J. Smith, Kenneth R. Smith,

Steven H. Stephenson Jr.,

Ronald C. Stevenson,

Wilburn B. Tidwell, Robert T. Till, James M. Underwood,

David F. Van Horn, Calvin R. Van Voorst and Robert K. Webb