Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Editorials

June 20, 2012

Tour of duty —  Bluefield troops heading to war zone

While America’s involvement in the Afghanistan conflict may be winding down, local troops from Mercer County are still on their way to the war zone.

Area residents should applaud, and rally behind, the soldiers of the 304th MP unit U.S. Army Reserves, who are preparing for deployment to Afghanistan later this summer.

The soldiers of the Mercer County-based Military Police unit headquartered in Bluefield will be heading to Fort Bush, Texas, in late August for a brief, six-day stay before they are deployed to Afghanistan, according to Captain Jared Peck, unit commander.

Peck said the unit will be on active duty status for a year, with about nine months of that time in Afghanistan.

The local soldiers are on their way to the war zone at a time when America is reducing its forces in Afghanistan. Just last year, 10,000 American troops left Afghanistan. President Barack Obama announced in May that another 23,000 U.S. troops will leave Afghanistan at the end of summer as part of a transition to Afghan responsibility for security. All American troops under Obama’s plan are expected to be out of Afghanistan by 2014. At that time, the Afghan government and its people are expected to take full responsibility for the security of their country.

A departure ceremony for the Bluefield-based troops will be held at the Bluefield High School auditorium on Aug. 23 at 9 a.m. All area residents are urged to attend the departure ceremony and express their support for the local soldiers.

This is not the first time the company has been ordered to active military service.

The 304th was constituted on Jan. 6, 1942, as a prisoner of war escort, and re-designated as an MP Escort Guard Co. on April 1, 1942, remaining in that capacity throughout the duration of World War II. The unit was activated two additional times in Kentucky before being moved to Bluefield on April 4, 1963.

The company was ordered into active military service on May 4, 1991, deployed to Kuwait as part of Operation Desert Shield; operated a prisoner of war camp during Operation Desert Storm and was deactivated and reverted to reserve status on May 4, 1991.

The unit was activated again on July 2, 1996, and deployed to Germany until March 27, 1997, and activated again from Dec. 6, 2002, to Dec. 5, 2003, for duty at Fort Stewart.

Now the local troops will soon be heading to Afghanistan.

We applaud the soldiers of the 304th MP for their long history of service and commitment to their country and state. And we wish them the best of luck as they prepare for their looming deployment.

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