776th prepare for possible mobilization

By Thomas Wilson

Star Staff

   Members of the Tennessee Army National Guard's 776th Maintenance Company based in Elizabethton mustered Friday morning in full camouflage regalia at the 176th Maintenance Battalion in Gray to get their paperwork for possible mobilization as a nation continues to watch and wait on developments in Iraq and North Korea.
   Sgt. Tom Hughes of the 776th said guard members would go to their battalion headquarters to process personal paperwork. He also said guard members would be receiving inoculations this weekend. Inoculations will likely include everything from smallpox to tetanus.
   "If you ain't got it, you are going to get it," Hughes said of the inoculations shortly before unit members boarded buses at the National Guard Armory in Elizabethton.
   The 776th was placed on alert for possible mobilization by the Tennessee Army National Guard on Dec. 14. The unit's regular drill meeting was slated for Saturday but moved up, according to Hughes.
   Citing security concerns, Hughes and company commander Capt. Larry Northcutt declined to comment on the unit's activation status or new orders handed down from state Army National Guard officials. Both also downplayed the notion the unit was doing anything out of the ordinary from traditional training exercises conducted each year.
   The maintenance company consists of approximately 200 members including the company's detachment in Mountain City. Guard members provide support and mechanical maintenance for almost all wheeled military vehicles ranging from jeeps to utility vehicles.
   If Guard members are activated, they become regular army soldiers for the duration of their activation.
   Members of the 776th Maintenance Company were among 15 Tennessee Army and six Air National Guard units called up to support Desert Storm and Shield military operations in 1991. Roughly 3,600 men and women from Tennessee National Guard units served in Iraq.
   Several of the state's Army National Guard units, including military police, a field artillery and engineering company from Paris, have already been mobilized, according to the Tennessee Department of Military.
   Hughes said the company carried a significant edge with most of the members, who hold two jobs as a Guardsman and as private sector professionals.
   "I have carpenters, school teachers, nurses, police officers among others," said Hughes. "It makes you a better unit because you are more well-rounded."