About 250 soldiers with the Alabama Army National Guard’s 135th Expeditionary Sustainment Command left Sunday for Fort Hood, Texas, where they will spend the next six weeks training and making final preparations for a nine-month tour in Kuwait.
The Birmingham-based 135th will support troops stationed in and around Middle Eastern and Central Asian countries in the area of responsibility, or AOR, of the U.S. Army’s Central Command. That means it will oversee the movement of parts, supplies, food, mail and troops.
At a Saturday send-off ceremony with his soldiers on stage before a packed Homewood High School auditorium, 135th commander Brigadier General Don Tatum said, “We know we have an important role, and we don’t take it lightly.”
While praising the readiness of his unit, Tatum also referred to the burdens that 135th families will bear while their spouses and loved ones are deployed, ranging from “the broken refrigerators and the broken cars” to children’s birthdays.
“The families are truly the ultimate, selfless servants,” he said.
Shortly after those remarks, Tatum turned toward the assembled soldiers on stage and said, “As I told you guys yesterday, ‘Game on.’
The 135th is expected to deploy in mid-March, and return home near the end of the year. While in Kuwait, it will be based in Camp Arifjan, a massive installation outside of Kuwait City.
At present, the Alabama Army Guard has about 850 soldiers deployed out of the country, most of them in Afghanistan. Those numbers will jump to around 1,300 once the 135th and another Guard unit, the 128th Military Police Company, deploy.
About 170 soldiers with the Athens-based 128th will be heading to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in the coming weeks “to provide security forces support to units based there,” according to an Alabama Guard news release. An island prison at Guantanamo has held hundreds of suspected terrorists since the 9/11 attacks.
The 128th is currently undergoing additional training at Fort Bliss, Texas.