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Ceremony for departing soldiers is next Saturday

The Alabama Army National Guard’s 2101st Transportation Company out of Demopolis, Aliceville and Butler has been called to active duty in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

A departure ceremony for the unit will be held at Demopolis High School at 10 a.m., Saturday, Jan. 9.

The 2101st, formerly the 440th Ordnance Company, was deployed to the Middle East in the 1990s. This is the company’s second deployment in the current war, having provided transportation support for Operation Iraqi Freedom during 2004-05.

The 170 members of the 2101st will head to Fort Dix, N.J., for final training before departing for Iraq.

Lee Belcher, commander of the Marengo County DAV Chapter 31, is expecting upwards of 200 soldiers and family members and is urging the public to turnout in support of these local men and women.

The unit has been training for its mission for months, undergoing extensive training both at home station and at Camp Shelby, Miss. Some unit members — part of Detachment 1 out of Aliceville — were able to put that training to use earlier this year.

In July, as they travelled home from training at Camp Shelby, they witnessed a church bus from Louisiana blow a tire and overturn directly in front of the unit bus. The unit bus stopped and 47 members of the 2101st assisted accident victims. Many involved believe their actions saved lives.

Gov. Bob Riley later recognized these soldiers in an awards ceremony at the Capitol.

Senior Alabama National Guardsmen, along with other officials, will attend the ceremony to send off the 2101st. The public is invited and encouraged to attend the ceremony to show their support for the 2101st soldiers and their families.