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Brookhaven’s I Company off to Fort Bliss — 106th India Co. joining Monticello, Crystal Springs and McComb units in Texas

Easton Burke Smith will make his arrival in Brookhaven in August.

His father, Spec. Dylan Smith with India Co. 106, will hopefully get a reprieve from the Kuwaiti desert for a few days to witness the birth of his son.

“I’m just hoping and praying I’ll be able to come home,” he said.

Smith is one of nearly 100 troops who are leaving the National Guard Armory today headed to Fort Bliss, Texas. There, they’ll meet up with about 40 troops from the Brookhaven area who are already there getting everything ready for deployment to the Persian Gulf.

They’ll join units from Crystal Springs, McComb and Monticello, said Capt. LaCrissia Jefferson, the first female commander of India Co.

They’re all part of more than 4,000 Mississippi National Guard soldiers who will be completing a three-month training deployment at Fort Bliss, followed by nine months at the Central Command Theater based out of Kuwait in support of Operation Spartan Shield. The 155th Armored Brigade Combat Team is supposed to deter and react to threats in the Middle East.

This will be the unit’s third deployment to the Middle East since 2001. The Dixie Thunder brigade possesses expertise from deployments during Operations Iraqi Freedom III in 2004 to 2005, and OIF 9.2 in 2009 to 2010.

Troops were joined by their families Monday at the National Guard Armory on Hwy. 84 in Brookhaven for a send-off event that included words of inspiration from Brookhaven Mayor Joe Cox and Lincoln County Chancery Clerk Tillmon Bishop, as well as prayer from the Rev. Steve Jackson, missions director for the Lincoln County Baptist Association. Music accompanied the event, and food was served.

Smith, a full-time mechanic at Camp Shelby, said he hates that he’ll miss spending the next five months with his wife, Dusti, as she prepares for their first child, but he’s proud to serve with his unit.

“This is what you sign up for,” he said. “I’m excited for it.”

Jefferson, of Tylertown, said the 106th includes troops from Corinth to the Coast. They’ll be in Texas until mid-June before traveling to Kuwait.

“I’m very, very appreciative of you all and your families for sharing your soldier with us,” she said. “We’re only going to borrow them for just a little while, and I promise to return them back to you just as I received them from you.”

She acknowledged the people who attended the event to celebrate India Co.

Lori Byrne, wife of Spec. Joshua Byrne, and Smith’s wife, Dusti, worked with the I Co. 106th Family Readiness Group to provide a barbecue chicken lunch for the soldiers and their families. Byrne said the generosity of Brookhaven merchants made that possible.

“This definitely shows that Brookhaven, Mississippi, is behind us, and for us to have that kind of backing, we need that right now,” Jefferson said. “We’re going through a lot of changes. We have a lot of young soldiers who have never touched sand.”

Jefferson recently returned from a deployment. “They asked me to go again, and here I am. And I don’t regret any part of it.”

She said India Co. is a diverse, talented group.

“This is a part time job, but you guys get in it and you do it better than most active duty people can ever get it done. That speaks volumes about you guys,” she said. “We have some of the best, if not the best in the state — mechanics, cooks, clerks, recovery section and transportation experts in the state. I have no doubt that India Co. will surpass their expectations, do their job exceptionally well and return home safely feeling accomplished.”

The brigade is based in Tupelo, with units in McComb, Senatobia, Starkville, Amory, Monticello and Meridian, as well as in Kansas City, Kansas.

For more information about the Family Readiness Group for India Co. 106, contact Byrne by email at loriree08@yahoo.com.