Soldiers talk to Atmore

Published 7:12 pm Thursday, June 3, 2004

By By Chuck Bodiford
(Editor's Note: This is the first installment of a series of communications from the men and women serving in Atmore's 711th Signal Battalion, Company A.)
They miss home, it's hot, and they'd love to have a real letter to read. But the men and women of Atmore's Co. A, 711th Signal Battalion are holding up well in Iraq, and now, they have an opportunity to talk to the folks back home.
Company A is stationed somewhere south of Baghdad working on a combination of military and civilian projects.
"Everyone involved with Company A is okay, we feel pretty safe where we are, however, there is no safe place here in Iraq," 1st Sgt Kenneth Rigby said.
Rigby shipped out to Iraq in January along with the other men and women of Company A. Rigby is the first of the men and women who will be sending their messages back home to the readers of the Atmore Advance.
"We all miss home and wish we were there, however, we know this needs to be done, " Rigby said. The battalion's primary role is providing communications support for the other military units serving in Iraq, but it's also taking part in the efforts to rebuild a war-torn nation.
"Company A is working with Headquarters to restore irrigation systems used to water vegetation like Day Palms, Flowers, and other plants. We are also involved with helping to restore some schools. We are refurbishing the schools to our standards. Hopefully there will be more projects like these," he said.
"The Atmore unit is doing good providing communications for other units. Morale is high and everyone seems to be doing good."
But in a land where the deaths of American soldiers are often celebrated by Iraqi insurgents and radical Muslim clerics, Memorial Day will have a very different feel in this land so far away from home in so many ways. "Memorial Day is Monday, but here it will be another day, we have no holidays. Just as we where here on Mother's Day we will be here on Father's Day, it would be nice if we could get a call or letter from home."
Rigby said the living conditions are pretty good, which helps against the sweltering heat. "Right now it is 116 degrees. Probably by the end of August it will be somewhere around 140 degrees. All of our living quarters and work areas have air conditioning, so we really aren't exposed to the heat all day. Also, because of the heat, we have to make sure that everyone is staying hydrated. We mainly drink water and Gatorade and are required to drink two to three bottles of water per day, but most drink more than that. Another way to fight dehydration is eating the right food. The food here is pretty good; we have "Southern" breakfast and have a couple of choices of different meats at lunch and dinner."
Though their position may be relatively safer than other units serving in Iraq, Rigby said Company A's soldiers miss home and are eager to receive messages from friends and family. But please, make it a real letter, Rigby said.
"It just has something extra to it. It is nice to be able to hold something in your hands and know that the person, who wrote it took the time to write the letter, put it in an envelope or wrap a care-package and send it," he said.
"I just want to say thank you to all the people for their support and prayers and as First Sgt, I'm going to do my best to bring all of Company A home and safe."
Look in upcoming issues of the Atmore Advance as we feature a different solider of Company A. Tentatively we are calling this feature "Signaling Home" and the feature should run in every Sunday edition of the Atmore Advance.
Editor's Note: Sgt 1st Class David Carney, in charge of public affairs and the Family Readiness Group Advisor for the 711th provided the Atmore Advance with contact to the soldiers and will continue working with the Advance to help us bring these soldiers' stories home. His help is deeply appreciated.

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