• 73°

Send-off ceremony for 155th set

A special send-off ceremony to honor the 155th Brigade CombatTeam (BCT) of the Mississippi Army National Guard deploying to Iraqsoon will be held at Camp Shelby Dec. 22 at 10 a.m.

The 155th BCT includes units based in Brookhaven, Monticello,McComb, Prentiss, Tylertown, Natchez and Crystal Springs. The teamis composed of approximately 4,000 soldiers from Mississippi,Arkansas and Vermont.

“Most of those are from Mississippi – about 3,500 of them,” saidMaj. Doril Sanders, Mobilization Center Shelby public affairscommander.

The BCT is scheduled to depart in January 2005 for Iraq. Thespecific departure date is not being released for operationalsecurity, Sanders said.

The soldiers of the BCT have trained at Camp Shelby since theywere mobilized in August and recently completed a 30-day evaluationrotation at the National Training Center (NTC) at Fort Irwin,Calif. The NTC at Fort Irwin is the U.S. Army’s premier deserttraining facility, he said.

“We’re expecting more than 10,000 people for the send-offceremony because most of the BCT are Mississippians and have justreturned from the NTC, so they have not been home to see theirfamilies yet,” Sanders said.

The soldiers will be placed on leave immediately following theceremony, he said, and should be allowed to return home with theirfamilies.

“They’ll probably have about a week or so to spend with theirfamilies for the Christmas holidays before they leave for Iraq,”Sanders said.

Restrictions for travel on the base are being slightly loosened,he said, and families should consult with their unit’s familyreadiness group for more information on a variety of importanttopics.

“They will need to bring some form of identification, such as adriver’s license, and if they’re driving they need to havesomething to show ownership or authority to be driving the vehicle,such as proof of insurance,” Sanders said.

Morale in the unit is high, he said, and on Dec. 8 they weretreated to a concert by Wayne Newton to celebrate the conclusion oftheir cycle at the NTC.

“I know the soldiers are really looking forward to seeing theirfamily and friends before they leave, and we want to send them offwith a really good ceremony,” Sanders said.