181st prepares to deploy to JordanDuring a deployment ceremony Wednesday, nearly 200 Tennessee Army National Guard soldiers and their families heard words of encouragement from top leaders before their deployment to train Jordanian soldiers. The ceremony Wednesday was a final sendoff before soldiers leave Thursday morning for Camp Shelby, Miss., and eventually Jordan.
Nearly 200 area soldiers depart the Chattanooga Armory today for the first leg of their ultimate deployment to train Jordanian soldiers.
On Wednesday afternoon, the local soldiers and their families heard words of advice and encouragement from top leaders in the Tennessee Army National Guard.
Maj. Gen. Max Haston, the state's top military leader, told the crowd that this is a unique mission "which no unit in Tennessee has ever attempted before."
"We're setting the bar pretty high," he said.
The soldiers' commanding officer, Lt. Col. Kevin Stewart, said after the deployment ceremony that the men and women of the 1st Battalion 181st Field Artillery Regiment began training nearly a year ago and will continue training when they reach Camp Shelby, Miss., their first stop before flying to Kuwait and later Jordan.
The soldiers will teach Jordanian infantrymen combat basics such as patrolling and small-unit leadership, Stewart said.
Though the country is considered a U.S. ally and has military personnel in Afghanistan, Haiti and Africa, Stewart said soldiers never ease up on security when deployed.
The Tennessee unit previously deployed on a combat mission to Iraq in 2007. More than 80 percent of the soldiers in this group have deployed overseas before this latest trip.
This is the third deployment for Capt. Will Sarrell, his wife, Pam, and their seven children. The captain had retired from the Guard recently but decided to rejoin to deploy with his friends.
Pam Sarrell said each deployment has been different with its own challenges.
"The first was probably the easiest. We didn't know what to expect," she said.
The recurring message during Wednesday's ceremony was for everyone, at home and abroad, to reach out if they need help and stay connected to their fellow soldiers and other military families.
"Don't feel like you're alone. You have a huge Guard family," Haston reminded the crowd.
Todd South covers courts, poverty, technology, military and veterans for the Times Free Press. He has worked at the paper since 2008 and previously covered crime and safety in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia. Todd’s hometown is Dodge City, Kan. He served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq before returning to school for his journalism degree from the University of Georgia. Todd previously worked at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. Contact ...