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The families of Army National Guard’s Alpha Battery 2nd 138th Field Artillery in Carrollton are getting ready for an expected deployment sometime in 2012.
Preparedness for what lies ahead was the message delivered by speakers and unit leaders at the National Guard unit’s annual family picnic a week ago.
Patty Wininger, head of the unit’s Family Resource Group, said this year’s picnic was planned as a bigger event than usual because of the expected call to duty next year. By moving it from the armory to General Butler State Resort Park, it gave the unit’s families a better chance to get to know each other.
It also allowed the group, now made up of eight members, to recruit family members to join the 138th’s FRG.
Wininger, who was head of the group during the unit’s deployment to Afghanistan, said the support family members provide each other helps them when their loved ones are away in dangerous parts of the world.
“It’s a lot to deal with,” she said. The support network can help families prepare for what lies ahead, keeping them from being “surprised.”
The 138th’s commander, Mike Roberts, stressed the importance of the FRG in an interview.
Roberts said the support group helps families “make the best of a tough situation.”
The 138th Field Artillery unit currently has 86 members, he said.
During the last deployment, Wininger said, there were 25 family members involved in the FRG.
Addressing the group gathered on Aug. 21, Wininger asked the members of the families to “come and join us.”
Retired Sgt. Major Jimmy Supplee encouraged involvement in the support group during his address at the event. “You don’t need to be a stranger to each other,” he said.
Supplee stressed that getting to know other families needs to start now before the deployment. He said the support group can help out when a car breaks down or a furnace stops working. Supplee said within the support network there will be someone who knows what to do.
“It doesn’t have to be hard,” Supplee said.
He went on to praise the work of the unit’s FRG.
“You need these ladies and they need you,” he said. “Step up to become part of the team.”
Supplee, who led the guard unit and is a 34-year veteran of the Kentucky National Guard, delivered a strong message to the unit’s members, telling them they need to be ready for the deployment.
He said everyone needed to know his or her job “to the letter without hesitation.” He also told the unit’s members they need to do what their commanders tell them because they are just doing their jobs getting them prepared.
“Any training problem if you don’t try to help could mean the difference in someone living or dying,” Supplee said.
Roberts said the location and time of the deployment remain up the air at this point. But he said the unit is on the schedule to be called up for duty during 2012.
“If that call comes...the officers, the NCOs (non-commissioned officers) can stand and say they are confident of Artillery Battery 138 as being ready for whatever mission they are given.”
The unit has been called up twice in recent years. The first deployment sent the 138th to Fort Campbell. In 2006, the unit was deployed for duty in Afghanistan.
Wininger said the unit suffered one death and several injuries during their deployment to Afghanistan. This included her husband, who is still working to recover from his injury.
The support group helps families work through these types of situations and the separation that comes with deployment, Wininger said.
The support group meets four times a year and then holds special events, such as the picnic and a special event during the Christmas holidays.
She said family members, not only spouses and parents, are encouraged to take part in the FRG. To join, call Wininger at (513) 284-4291 (cell) or (859) 428-0161 (home).
This year’s picnic was made possible with the support of the Carroll County community.
Sgt. Terry Flanary said there was a lot of community support to help with the picnic. He said Kroger helped with the food. Cakes and drinks were provided by the Carroll County Judge-Executive’s office.
Supplee noted that he received a lot of community donations for door prizes that were given away during the event. He noted that no community he has seen in his travels as a sergeant major supports its Guard unit like here in Carroll County.
Sunday’s event included an inflatable, face painting, games for kids, cornhole, free snow cones and popcorn.