Signal battalion working at 100 percent
Published 7:57 pm Friday, June 25, 2004
By By Lindsey Sherrill and Arthur McLean
This week, the Atmore Advance spoke to Captain Paul West, commander of Company A of the 711th Signal Battalion.
"We're one of the few American units in this location with three school projects," West said. "We're dealing with Iraqi contractors rehabbing and building new schools. We're going to be working on the same situation with water treatment plants, rebuilding small bridges and plan to go to local orphanages. We're working with local churches back home to get clothing and other things for the children."
The company is working on irrigation systems for the plants and trees in their camp, and has done some work with archeologists. They will also be working on commercialization projects in the area where they are stationed.
"We're at 100 percent of our capabilities in our mission and our soldiers are probably taxed to the limit," West said. "They've been performing just outstanding. Despite the conditions, and having not been deployed before, they've exceeded all expectations. They keep themselves occupied when not on shift. They do a lot of training while not on shift. They have Bible studies every week. Others have taken it on themselves to take on some physical conditioning, so I think their spouses will be surprised when they see them. I'm really proud of each of them."
The soldiers can also watch TV and play ping pong and have a computer and phone to keep in touch with home.
West, who is not from Atmore, has a wife and three daughters, Lydia, Marion and Kate, back home.
"We've not had anyone injured or God forbid anything worse. Our worst things are going on convoys and the soldiers take the responsibility of going on convoys very seriously. But we've been very fortunate that the location is more secure and safer than most. There are periods of home sickness and missing friends and family, but I think spirits are pretty good," West said.
"The key is just getting a written letter from someone, and letters from the elementary school children are a lot of fun to read. People saying thank you and just little bits of candy are appreciated. Batteries are always needed here. Someone taking the time to send something to us, from someone who doesn't even know us, helps moral."
West, who was part of the send off in Atmore, said all the efforts back home are appreciated.
"I do want to say that the churches and community of Atmore, Cantonment and the surrounding communities have been really great in what they send us and keep sending us. It's been very helpful."