Soldiers put on alert

Published 12:01 am Thursday, December 6, 2007

NATCHEZ — On Monday the Mississippi Army National Guard’s 155th Brigade Combat Team was put on alert for possible deployment no sooner that summer of 2009.

The brigade, comprised of 3,500 Mississippians, has approximately 40 soldiers from the Natchez area.

Ret. Lt. Col. Tim Powell, a spokesman for the guard, said this doesn’t mean that the soldiers will be fighting any time soon.

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“This is not a go to war order,” he said.

Powell said Monday’s alert simply starts a process of preparation for the guard.

He also said Monday’s alert was not unexpected.

“We knew if war was still on a second rotation could come up,” he said.

Powell said the Army typically trains in cycles years in advance.

While the possibility still exists that soldiers may not be deployed at all, the Army is getting prepared just incase.

To start the process, armories in the 155th brigade will start to verify that all medical records are current and begin training exercises.

Powell said soldiers will also begin an activity called theater emersion training.

The emersion training, to take place at Camp Shelby, will train soldiers in real-life scenarios.

“It helps them learn how to handle large crowds,” he said.

While training for a possible deployment over one year away may seem excessive, Powell says it’s all part of the Army’s new early notification system.

Typically soldiers would be activated then sent to a mobilization unit and then sent to the battleground.

Normally the soldiers would spend up to four months in training.

The Army’s new process extends the same training over a long period of time.

“It really helps planning for soldiers, families and employers,” he said. “If they know what’s coming they can plan for it.”

Powell also said being on an alert status benefits local armories.

“The are considered higher priority,” he said.

And that higher priority status means more money for training and equipment.

“It’s actually a benefit,” Powell said.