776th Company holds down fort

Soldiers regularly reminded that war continues

Photo by Abby Morris
Members of the 776th Maintenance Company and the approximately 20 members of other companies attached to the unit fall out early in the morning for physical training before the dayÕs work begins.

By Abby Morris
Star Staff

   FORT CAMPBELL, KY - As military action in Iraq rages on, members of the 776th Maintenance Company continue the garrison support duties they were assigned to at Fort Campbell after being called to active duty in January of this year.
   When the 776th first arrived at Fort Campbell, they assisted in the mobilization of Army units that passed through the base on their way to other locations. However, this is only one of many duties the company must shoulder.
   According to Col. Malcolm Atkins of the 3397th Garrison Support Brigade, members of that Brigade, which the 776th is under, have two main duties while activated at Fort Campbell. "We have a two- fold mission," he said.
   When the 776th first arrived at Fort Campbell, the main focus was to prepare for deployment. "Since they've been here, there has been over 70 reserve component units come through, and some of those with lots of equipment," Atkins said. "The 776th has been a major contributor in getting those units mobile."
   Since that time, the main focus of the company has shifted to the second part of their mission.
   Taking up where the active duty members of the military who were stationed at Fort Campbell left off is one of the main duties of the 3397th Garrison Support Brigade, Atkins said. When the members of the Army stationed at Fort Campbell who were called to service left the base, they left behind not only families but duties as well, duties which needed to be fulfilled in order to keep the base running.
   "(The 3397th GSU) has all of the main specialties to operate the augmentation support for Fort Campbell and to run Fort Campbell as a mobilization and demobilization point," Atkins said. "With this one unit we have the specialists necessary to come in and run this operation and that is important because many of these functions were done by active duty personnel."
   In addition to keeping the base running to support the soldiers still stationed at Fort Campbell, the 3397th GSU also assists in running support services for the families of the soldiers who have been deployed.
   As the members of the 776th serve their country on the home front, one of the questions that is on the forefront of not only their minds but also the minds of their friends and families back home is when will the company be able to return home.
   "The expectation right now is that they will stay for all of those units (which mobilized through Fort Campbell) to get back," Atkins said. "Right now my expectation is that we will be here for the 12 month initial rotation period at least."
   That time frame, however, is subject to change based on the day-to-day activities in Iraq, Atkins said. "The only consistency right now is that it (a return home date) is a moving target," he said.
   When the 776th mobilized, the idea that they would be gone a year was present. "In the Army we have short term plans and long term plans," said First Sgt. Thomas Hughes of the 776th. "Our orders said we would stay here for one year." Hughes also stressed that orders can change based on the activities in Iraq or if a need arises somewhere else for the expertise of the company.
   Rumors have made rounds through both the company and the base as to a date when the soldiers will get to return home to their families; however, according to both Atkins and Hughes as well as Capt. Larry Northcutt of the 776th, no official decision has been made about when the company will be demobilized.