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Guard given warm send-off

Members of the Alabama Army National Guard were given a warm and patriotic send-off Friday in Clanton.

Twelve members of the 1156th Military Police Detachment Criminal Investigation Division, which is based in Clanton, are being deployed to Iraq and Kuwait.

Once there, the members, consisting of two mechanics and 10 law enforcement officers from all over Alabama, will conduct criminal investigations in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

A deployment ceremony was held at 2 p.m. Friday at Fort Ivan Smith on Airport Road. Guard members’ families and friends as well as other community members — carrying U.S. flags and wearing red, white and blue garb — came out to support the troops.

“It’s awe-inspiring to me to see all you people come out,” said Bill Ford, commander of the 1156th. “I want to thank you for being here to show your patriotism.”

The dozen Guard members will go to Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas for a few weeks before beginning their work overseas.

Brig. Gen. Charles H. Gailes Jr. told the men to: “Do your job. Do it well. Come home.”

Gailes also presented Ford an Alabama flag, telling him to display it wherever the unit goes.

State Sen. Hank Erwin and local Rep. Jimmy Martin offered words of encouragement to the Guard members.

“You represent America’s best…come home as soon as possible, in the same way you left,” Martin said.

The 1156th deployed some agents to Washington, D.C. in 2003, but has not deployed the unit in the current war until now.

Their tour of duty is expected to last 12 months.

The Alabama Army and Air National Guard has called more than 16,000 personnel to active duty since 9/11.