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Operation Black Belt will showcase New Era building

A large-scale military training exercise is expected to bring upwards of 100 troops and exponentially more people to Demopolis next week.

The Delta Regional Authority (DRA) and The United States Air Force National Guard and Reserve Commands will host Operation Black Belt 2012, a military community assistance mission May 1 through May 10 in Demopolis at the old New Era building.

Demopolis Mayor Mike Grayson said the event is the culmination of three years of reaching out to DRA and seeking out this type of service.

“I had heard about a similar exercise in another state and just began asking the question, ‘How can we go about getting this in Demopolis,” Grayson recalled.

After three years of asking, DRA committed to bringing its exercise to Demopolis next month, while also servicing Hayneville and Selma.

The program will provide treatment for medical, dental, or vision care for citizens of the Black Belt region of Alabama.

Providing outpatient services to area residents, the program has no restrictions on who may receive services or assistance. All services will be provided at absolutely no cost to the patient. Clinical services available include outpatient medical, diagnostic, and counseling services. Dental services include check-ups, cleaning, fillings, and extractions. Vision services include vision tests, prescriptions, and glasses made to those prescriptions. The mission will also provide youth sports physicals and physical check-ups for all ages.

Any Alabama Black Belt resident who requires treatment for any type of medical, dental, or vision care that can be formed in a medical office is encouraged to take advantage of the federally funded opportunity to receive care for the condition. The mission will be open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily from May 1 to May 10.

The University of West Alabama’s Center for Business and Economic Services will provide support, coordination, and liaison for the Federal/State Distinguished Visitor Day program, which will bring government leaders to the Black Belt on Friday, May 4.

Grayson hopes a meet-and-greet with government officials could become a catalyst for finding a permanent occupant for the now-vacant New Era building.

“It’s a good opportunity to showcase the building,” he said. “A lot of people who otherwise may not pass through there, we hope, will spend some time walking around it. Hopefully, we’ll have the chance to talk to them and see how we can go about putting something in there for good.”