711th Signal Battalion to be honored Saturday

Published 1:07 pm Tuesday, August 9, 2005

By By Adam Prestridge
It was a joyous day in Atmore when the Alabama National Guard's 711th Signal Battalion Company A returned home on that cold, rainy day in late January.
More than six months later, National Guard Bureau will honor those troops that served our country in Iraq and those that supported them during a presentation this Saturday as part of its Freedom Salute Campaign.
The celebration will be held at 2 p.m. in the Escambia County High School auditorium.
The Freedom Salute Campaign is one of the largest Army National Guard recognition endeavors in history, designed to publicly acknowledge Army Guard soldiers and those who supported them during the President's call to duty for Operations Noble Eagle, Enduring Freedom and Iraq Freedom.
According to program information, eligible Soldiers include those who were mobilized 31 or more consecutive days directly or in support of Operation Noble Eagle, Enduring Freedom, or Iraqi Freedom. Each eligible Soldier will receive an encased American Flag, a sequentially numbered commemorative coin, a "Defender of Freedom" certificate signed by LTG Roger C. Schultz, Director of the Army National Guard, and CSM A. Frank Lever, III, 7th Command Sergeant Major, Army National Guard, and a lapel insignia. The Soldier's spouse will receive a lapel insignia while the Soldier's children will be recognized and presented with a Future Soldier Footlocker Kit comprised of Guard-related items designed to entertain and educate young people.
SPC Nathan Summers, an Atmore resident, said the program will be a good way for the soldiers to express to the community and businesses their appreciation for what they did for them and their families while they were overseas.
Summers said several businesses, organizations and residents of Atmore sent care packages and other gifts to the soldiers deployed.
Each eligible soldier will be able to recognize one center of influence (COI) for outstanding support during the soldier's mobilization. This recognition will be in the form of a commemorative lapel insignia and a medallion with ribbon. Examples of COI's include, but are not limited to, a supervisor, clergy, or college guidance counselor. The COI may also be a representative of an organization that supported the soldier such as a church, a charitable organization, a business, the soldier's employer, or school.
The Freedom Salute Campaign began December 2003 and has thus far recognized over 100,000 deserving soldiers, family members, friends, employers, centers of influence and other very important persons for their contributions since the terrorists attacks on American soil on Sept. 11, 2001, according to program information. The campaign is first and foremost a Recruiting and Retention Program. How an organization treats its people is a direct reflection of the values the organization holds. Parents, prospects, other current members and families will watch closely how the ARNG treats its returning Soldiers. Conducting these Freedom Salute Campaign programs is a wonderful opportunity to increase awareness in the community of the good work being done by the ARNG. Not only does it directly impact on recruiting but retention as well. In a recent survey, Soldiers returning from Operation Iraqi Freedom indicated that recognition for their service and sacrifice was one of the most important contributing factors on whether or not they would continue to serve in the ARNG. This program is not a "nice to have," "good thing to do," it is a must have and must do well program that will continue to impact the recruiting and retention of our Soldiers.
There will be several other presentations during the program including recognition of the unit's choice for Outstanding COI and Distinguished COI honors.

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