By BEN DUDLEYThe Wilson Post
The National Guard Armory in Lebanon has been busier than usual as they received the order to mobilize the 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment, the state’s largest National Guard unit.
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates signed the mobilization order and it was announced on Monday of this week. The 278th is made up of over 3,000 soldiers across the state, with nearly 200 stationed in Lebanon.
“The Regiment has anticipated the order and conducted individual and collective training for the deployment over the past six months,” said Colonel Jeffrey Holmes, 278th Commander. “Our soldiers and families are prepared, and we’re ready to get it started.”
An Armored Cavalry Regiment is organized for the specific purposes of reconnaissance, surveillance, and security. Depending on the factors of mission, enemy, terrain, troops available, time and weather, a Cavalry unit may be given one mission or several simultaneous missions.
It must be organized, equipped, and trained for continuous combat operations in all types of terrain under all weather conditions. Cavalry's firepower, mobility and shock effect make it one of the Army's most flexible organizations.
The 278th last deployed in June 2004 during which the unit trained Iraqi security forces and assisted with provincial elections and the National Constitutional Referendum. “The world situation is constantly changing after seven years of deployments, and the current situation will determine how and where the regiment is utilized as part of the global war on terror,” said Brigadier General Max Haston, Assistant Adjutant General of the Army.
While the actual deployment date is unknown, Major Mark Lenhart said that the timeline they are on would put them going to Camp Shelby in Mississippi “sometime in early December.”
The squadron based in Lebanon has three missions with the 278th Regiment: headquarters troop, military signals, and military intelligence.“We’re the eyes and ears for the Regiment,” said Major Joe H. Miller. “We let the Regiment know where to go and where to hit.”Maj. Miller is a former Blackhawk helicopter pilot and instructor who missed the Regiment’s last deployment after getting hit by a police officer in 2004 while standing outside of his vehicle on the side of the road. Miller went through several surgeries and is now on inactive duty.
The mobilization order came this past weekend while the Regiment was participating in a full rehearsal of satellite communications training in Smyrna.“We’ve been undergoing serious training for the past six months,” Miller said, “in everything from basic warrior training to weapon skills to counter-insurgent situations to learning a language requirement.”
Miller said that his troops and their families are ready thanks to regular meetings with the Yellow Ribbon Committee and Family Readiness groups. Yellow Ribbon America is a support group for soldiers and their families. Another big help, according to Miller, is the Employer Support for the Guard and Reserve (ESGR).
“The ESGR has been really helpful to our troops,” Miller said, “by giving them the peace of mind from knowing that they will still be able to provide for their families when they get home. Some employers, and I wish I could remember specific ones, even send checks to families that make up the difference between the soldier’s army pay and their civilian salary if the civilian salary is higher.
“That is a big relief. That keeps the soldier’s mind focused on his mission and his fellow soldiers which in turn keeps everyone safer.”
Miller also said he has been encouraged by several employers who are appreciative to the National Guard “because they know that they have their free enterprise because of the soldiers that have risked and given their lives.”
Tennessee National Guard officials are working with the Department of Defense on the specific mission, number of soldiers, deployment date and location, all of which will be announced at a later date.