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Deployment set, ceremony slated

By By Connie Nowlin Managing editor
A deployment ceremony for Co. A of the 711 Signal Battalion of the Army National Guard will be held at 9:30 a.m. Saturday at the auditorium of Escambia County High School. The ceremony is being planned jointly by the Public Affairs Office of the Alabama Army National Guard and the city as well as veteran's organizations and the unit itself.
The ceremony is a replica of those being held across the state and nation as Guard and Reserve Units ready to ship out.
"The communities are very supportive of our units," said Lt. Col. Bob Horton, public affairs officer of the Alabama National Guard. "They turn out in great numbers to show support."
The same support is expected to overflow Saturday in Atmore.
"We are working with the Army to have a solid show of support for our Guard," said Atmore Mayor Howard Shell.
Scheduled to attend the ceremony is Congressman Jo Bonner, R-Mobile.
" I firmly believe it is important for all of us as Americans to show strong support for our men and women in uniform, most especially those who are currently – or soon will be – serving in the Central Command theater of operations," Bonner said via email.
"Our family and friends from south Alabama who are being deployed in the coming days deserve our thanks and prayers for the job they are about to undertake. I will be in attendance to personally express my gratitude for the sacrifices they are making here at home in order to defend freedom and liberty for families in a nation halfway around the world."
"During my visit to Iraq just a few weeks ago, I was able to see firsthand the tremendous progress that has been made in the reconstruction of a nation that for nearly 30 years lived under a brutal, oppressive regime. We can be proud of the role the members of the National Guard and reserve from south Alabama have played in that reconstruction, and I have no doubt that the men and women about to depart Escambia County will serve with equal levels of pride and distinction."
Organizers also have asked Gov. Bob Riley to attend, but his appearance has not been confirmed. He has been asked to attend several similar ceremonies across the Alabama Gulf Coast the same day.
"We want to encourage as many people in town as we can to turn out in support of our unit," Shell said.
Shell also said that the entire community has been asked to display yellow ribbons in honor of Co. A.
The company has been mobilized for support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and will be stationed either in Iraq or Kuwait.
The 65 members serve as something of a telephone company for the troops in field, sending and retrieving information by computer and landline.
The company had been hearing rumors of its mobilization since September, and it went to Camp Shelby in October for training.
Since members of the 711 are employed by area businesses, the absence of its members will be felt by the entire community, not just direct family members.
The Atmore Police Department has already lost one officer to overseas deployment, and now is faced with loss of another.
"If I hired someone to fill his position, it would be over four months before he'd be able to work," Atmore Police Chief Jason Dean has said.
"There is no way to work around it. We're filling in the gaps as we can."
But the emphasis will be on honoring the members of the community who are serving their nation.
In keeping with that, members of the community are asked to line U.S. 31 from the Armory east to Main Street and also to line Main Street north toward I-65 beginning at 8 a.m. Monday.
Members of the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars will circulate among those who are congregated and provide them with American flags to wave as Co. A departs.
The flags are provided by the city as a show of support for its citizen soldiers.