Students to be deployed to Kuwait, Bosnia

Dave Shinall

Louisville senior Aisha Coley may spend the holidays far away from her hometown and the Hill this year.

She, and other students who are members of the Kentucky National Guard are preparing for deployments to the Persian Gulf and the Balkans.

Pfc. Coley, who serves with Detachment 2, 2123rd Transportation Company, based in Lousville, said she was told recently by her unit commander that she may be leaving for Kuwait by November.

“My commander believes that we’ll be gone before Thanksgiving,” said Coley, who is a truck driver for the Guard.

If so, Coley will spend the holidays and most of next year serving her country next door to Iraq. She will haul ammuniton and supplies across the Kuwaiti desert between Camp Doha and Udairi Tank Range.

Coley said she joined the Guard for the benefits it offered, including having her tuiton and books at Western paid for in full. Kuwait will be Coley’s first deployment after two years in the Guard.

“I don’t feel scared, because my unit, they’re a pretty good group, but I don’t think it’ll hit me until it’s time for me to go,” she said. “I’m a little pissed off because I’m so close to graduating, but, I mean, it’s something that I have to do.”

Coley said she thinks her deployment is part of the prelude to a war with Iraq.

“I’m pretty sure of that,” she said.

Coley isn’t the first member of her family to help protect the United States as a member of its military. Her sister, Chevon Griffith, a senior majoring in elementary education at Western, is an Air Guard senior airman.

She returned to the U.S. this summer after spending 100 days at Prince Sultan Air Base, Saudi Arabia.

Griffith has been conducting her own brand of pre-deployment training to prepare her sister for the Middle East.

“I’ve kind of given her a heads-up of what to expect as far as the smells, the people, the flies, all that,” Griffith said.

Other Western students will also have to begin coping with being away from friends and family – just nine days from now.

Fifteeen students, all members of the National Guard like Coley, will begin training Nov. 2 at a reclaimed Muhlenberg County strip mine owned by the U.S. Army.

They and 276 other Guardsmen from 2nd Battalion, 123rd Armor Regiment, will take part in pre-deployment training for NATO peacekeeping duty in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The 123rd’s training will begin at the 8,500-acre Wendell Ford Training Center near Greenville. The unit will then go to Fort Riley, Kansas, for more training.

The 123rd, along with guardsmen from South Carolina, will relieve soldiers from Fifth Corps, which began its Bosnia peacekeeping mission in 1995.

Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Alexander, spokesman for the batallion, said members of the 123rd will train in the U.S. until January before leaving for Germany.

“We’ll be in Germany for about a month,” Alexander said. “Then, we’ll go to Bosnia for six months.”

Alexander said the 15 Western students and other members of their unit will spend about a year away from home.

While they are gone, Western’s National Guard members will earn full military pay exempted from federal income tax while deployed, and $150 a month hazardous duty pay, Alexander said.

Reach Dave Shinall at [email protected]