100 guard members headed for Southwest Asia
RENO – Almost 100 Nevada Army Guard soldiers from the 321st Signal Co., left Reno on Sunday en route to Fort Lewis, Wash., for in-processing and training. Eventually they will be sent to Southwest Asia to establish more communication links for U.S troops stationed there.
Five Nevada Army National Guard units have been mobilized for active duty.
Two units have recently returned home while the 1st Regiment, 221st Cavalry is still providing security for the Air Guard facility at the Reno International Airport and Nellis Air Force Base near Las Vegas.
Lt. Col. Vernon Scarbrough, commander of the 422nd Signal Battalion based north of Reno, said the guard members will be at Fort Lewis for up to two months of training before going overseas.
Scarbrough said he does not know where the unit will serve in Southwest Asia until it nears completion of the validation process.
“The process could take two weeks to three months. It depends on how quickly it goes and how quickly the unit is needed in the theater,” he said.
Once deployed, Scarbrough said the unit could be on orders for as long as two years, but he figures the mobilization may last between 12 to 18 months.
The signal company consists of a main body from the Reno-Carson City area plus two squads from the 440th Cable and Wire Company from Las Vegas.
Scarbrough said the signal company will establish microwave radio communications over a long-distance area. Missions many include setting up line-of-site radio communication, tropospheric scatter radios, some cable and wire, and tactical satellite transmissions.
“We’re like AT&T in the battlefield.” Scarbrough explained. “We go where there is no infrastructure so all units can talk with e-mail, telephones and videoconferencing.”
Spec. Christina Johns, an automated-logistical specialist for the guard and a full-time employee for the Veterans Administration in Las Vegas, said the deployment hasn’t affected her yet.
But “It may when we leave Washington,” said the 20-year-old.
While many soldiers packed their gear in their duffel bags, Staff Sgt. Michael Connell of Reno, a full-time training technician for the unit, is taking his bagpipes to the Middle East.
“It’s kind of a tradition for the pipes to go to war,” Connell said, a 12th- generation Scot whose ancestors have gone to war with their bagpipes beginning with the Revolutionary War.
Connell hopes he can link up with other bagpipers in Southwest Asia.
Capt. Mary Devine, commander of the 440th Cable and Wire Company, hugged many of her soldiers before they left for Fort Lewis.
“I’m so proud of them. They’re wonderful,” she said, her voice choking. “They are committed, dedicated and professional. They have never let me down and have exceeded all expectations I have had.”