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Guard unit honored for protecting depot

April 02, 2004|by BONNIE H. BRECHBILL

bonnieb@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Letterkenny Army Depot Commander Col. William A. Guinn said the materiel at the depot near Chambersburg "is on any terrorist's wish list."

Guinn commended the group that protects the depot, the HHC 337 Engineer Battalion (Heavy) 28th Division of the Pennsylvania National Guard, for doing a "deadly serious job" well during their nine-month deployment at the depot.

"They kept us safe, and let us focus on our mission - turning out materiel to support our soldiers in Iraq and 135 countries around the world," Guinn told the audience at the Awards/Departure Ceremony for the battalion Thursday.

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"These are great soldiers," he said. "They showed up ready and trained, and they did nothing but improve since they've been here. They made their unit proud, and they made LEAD super proud."

During its deployment, which began June 8, 2003, the battalion performed the Letterkenny Protection mission, the commander said. Its members trained in marksmanship, vehicle and personnel search, riot control, rapid reaction drill and decontamination proceedings.

They stood guard duty, "a lot of it on cold nights," Guinn said, "and I heard no complaining. They always had a cheerful, can-do, give-me-more-sir attitude."

The soldiers, some of whom were from the local area, used their off-duty hours to better themselves, Guinn said. They completed 3,400 hours of correspondence courses, and earned 30 college credits.

"They gained knowledge to make them more valuable to themselves and to the Army," Guinn said. "Six were promoted since they've been here."

The battalion leaves Sunday.

Maj. Gen. Jessica L. Wright, 50th Adjutant General and commander of the Pennsylvania National Guard, said that the 28th Infantry Division is the oldest division in the Army, recently celebrating its 125th anniversary.

"You are full of energy. You had a hard guard post," she told the soldiers.

"Your professionalism and dedication preceded you. Everyone told me you met them in a professional manner, no matter who they were. The global war on terrorism is fought on many fronts. Some remain home to protect our country," she said.

Spc. Grady Hunt of St. Thomas, Pa., has been in the National Guard for eight years. He said he was able to see his family sometimes during his deployment because they lived nearby.

Chambersburg resident Spc. William Stoner, in the guard for two years, said he felt honored to serve at Letterkenny.

Spc. Jeremiah Detwiler of Altoona, Pa., in the guard 34 months, said he will go back to National Guard status for now. A new squadron organized while he was at Letterkenny, he said. "Our main goal is to get caught up with the squadron."

His mother, Christine Matt of Altoona, attended the ceremony and said she was "extremely proud" of her son.

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