Signaling Home

Published 7:27 pm Wednesday, June 9, 2004

By Staff
Arthur McLean
Atmore's 1st Sgt. Billy Gates is serving in Iraq with Company D of the 711th Signal Battalion from Mobile.
"The members of the company are doing fine," Gates said. "The weather's getting awfully hot, but so far we're taking care of our soldiers."
Serving south of Baghdad, Gates said the area where he and his soldiers are stationed is a farming community, and the residents of the area have responded well to their presence.
"All in all, our mission is going really well," Gates said. "Our first priority is communications support, but we're not moving into the humanitarian phase of the mission."
Delta Company is beginning to work on projects like rebuilding infrastructure and water systems and – close to Gates heart – rebuilding the local schools. Back home in Atmore, Gates is a teacher at Escambia County High School.
"I missed getting to see my seniors graduate this year, but we believe in our mission here and we believe we're doing a good job," Gates said.
Gates wife, Linda Gates, is trying to help her husband with the Iraqi school project by collecting school supplies to ship to Iraq. "I would personally like to appeal to the people of Atmore to help her with that project we've called 'Team 711' which is with the family readiness group."
As a 1st Sgt. it's Gates job to look after the well-being of the men under his command and keep them together as a unit working to carry out their orders. With temperatures in the hundreds, a large concern for Gates is just making sure his men stay hydrated during the day.
"My day usually starts about 5 a.m. and it's already 90 degrees," Gates said. "We have water and things like Gatorade stationed all around the base." Although soft drinks are available through the PX, the soldiers are encouraged to avoid carbonated beverages in favor or water or similar drinks.
"We have a saying here whenever a soldier runs into a buddy 'let's get a drink,' meaning they get a bottle of water or Gatorade," Gates said. Soon, his men will be receiving backpack style water pouches making it easier for them to keep hydrated.
"I'd like to tell everyone back home hello. I miss my family; my daughter Alison, and my son Justin," Gates said. "I'm real proud of them and everyone there for supporting us. We get to talk to our families periodically, and we really appreciate the support we get from friends and family with the letters and care packages, they mean a lot."
More information about the "Team 711" efforts will be in the Wednesday edition of the Atmore Advance.

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