Students, staff prepare for deployment

Abbey Brown

The scenery for students and staff heading to the Middle East may soon change, but they won’t leave without saying a last goodbye.

The 1st Battalion 623rd field artillery unit has been activated and is to report to the Glasgow National Guard Armory Saturday to prepare for their deployment to Fort Campbell and then an unknown destination for an unknown time.

“The orders are for a year,” said Lt. Col. Ron Turner. “But that could change at any point.”

Turner didn’t know exactly how many Western students or employees have been activated in his unit, but he said he knew a number of Western students who take advantage of the National Guard’s tuition program.

Versailles senior Stephen Martin is among their ranks.

“I joined to pay for school,” he said. “I didn’t think going to war was a possibility at the time.”

Martin signed up for the National Guard in April 1999. He has withdrawn from classes.

“My initial feeling when I found out was relief because it has been hanging over our heads for so long — whether or not we are going to go,” Martin said. “I don’t mind serving our country. And I’m not really nervous. My family is nervous. They are worried for my safety.

“I’m just ready to go and get it over with.”

Martin has been spending his last week before he is deployed with his family and fiance of one month.

“She is ready for me to go and come back so we can get married,” he said. “If I’m back in time, we are getting married Dec. 27.”

Registrar Freida Eggleton said students who are members of any military branch and are called to active duty while enrolled at Western have options. They can work with their instructors to see if they can get an incomplete. If so, they would get a refund of their tuition and fees.

Students called to active duty should contact the registrar’s office to begin the withdrawal process, Eggleton said. Those students need to bring an official copy of their orders.

Eight students have withdrawn from classes for military service as of Feb. 12, University Relations Director Bob Skipper said. But Turner estimates that there are quite a few more who will be doing just that by the end of this week.

There are a number of other students and staff who haven’t yet been activated but are still preparing for the possibility.

Campus police Chief Robert Deane was put on alert status, meaning he could be alerted of deployment only 48-hours before he had to leave, in January.

“Having to leave is very possible,” Deane said. “It just depends on what the army needs. I’m kind of in limbo right now.”

Deane, who is a chief warrant officer in the Army’s investigation department, has been in the military since November of 1984. He served for almost a year in 1990 in Saudi Arabia.

The department has already made plans in case he is deployed. Capt. Jerry Phelps would act as chief in Deane’s place.

“This would take a captain normally assigned to other duties to take over my duties,” Deane said. “And then someone would have to take over his duties. It is a domino effect.”

But Deane said he is prepared to go if that is what needs to happen.

“I signed up for this,” he said.

He said he’s concerned that emergency personnel in communities back home may be left with fewer numbers as the military calls up so many ranks.

Loretto senior Diane Mattingly has also been preparing for the possibility of her deployment. Mattingly, a member of the Army Reserve for more than 21 years, has spoken with most of her professors and has already made arrangements with her family to help take care of her 17-year-old daughter.

“I would gladly go,” she said. “Any soldier would probably say that. I just think that with everything going on in the world, any soldier out there would gladly support the missions that are going on.”

The send-off ceremony for those leaving is at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Glasgow Armory on Calvary Drive.

Reach Abbey Brown at [email protected]