776th bestows Star reporter with Certificate of Appreciation

By Thomas Wilson
STAR STAFF
twilson@starhq.com

   The 776th Maintenance Company knows Abby Morris has it covered.
   The Elizabethton Star reporter received a Certificate of Appreciation from the Tennessee Army National Guard unit while visiting the company peopled with numerous Carter County residents at Fort Campbell, Ky. earlier this month.
   Commander of the 776th, Capt. Larry B. Northcutt, presented Morris with the Certificate of Appreciation on behalf of the 776th while she was reporting from the base on August 3-4.
   "Abby Morris did an excellent job when she came up here," said Northcutt. "She's written several stories about us, and it is always good to be recognized by the hometown."
   The certificate reads, "In recognition for her news reporting on the 776th Maintenance Company, Elizabethton, Tennessee, from 27 Jan 2003 to 4 August 2003. Her professionalism and timely reporting demonstrate the true freedom of the press and the values which it expresses during 'Operation Noble Eagle.' Through her reporting, Abby Morris has brought great credit to herself, the Elizabethton Star News, the 776th Maintenance Company and the Tennessee National Guard."
   Northcutt said the unit had posted all stories written by Morris about the unit on a bulletin board. He said Morris was among few media members who were given access to the base and soldiers.
   "In the military, we have to be cautious in what we say," said Northcutt. "When she came up, she talked to the soldiers and we tried to be welcoming."
   Morris journeyed to Fort Campbell after the company extended an invitation to her to report on the unit. Her journalism assignment didn't mean an easy day at the office. Morris turned out at 4:45 a.m. on Monday morning to meet 776th soldier, Spec. Rick Gabriel, shortly after 5:30 a.m. and experience a full day as seen through the eyes of 776th soldiers.
   "We were on the base by 6 a.m. when the soldiers turn out for PT," she said. "Everyone seemed to have pretty high morale. They all seemed excited to be there and doing the duty they were called to do."
   Morris got a tour of the 105,000-acre military base that is home to the legendary 101st Airborne Division. She also met Col. Malcolm Atkins, commanding officer for the 3397th Garrison Support Unit of the Army Reserves. Atkins presented Morris with a 3397th GSU coin. The 776th serves under the 3397th GSU in the current mission.
   "Col. Atkins thanked me for the work I had done on the 776th," she said. "He said it was very important for the troops to know that they have not been forgotten."
   Morris visited various areas on the base including engine shops, sewing shop, weapons and electronic shops, and areas for vehicle maintenance.
   The 776th has headquarters at the National Guard Armory in Elizabethton with a detachment based in Mountain City. The company has spent eight months on active duty in support of Operation Noble Eagle/Enduring Freedom.
   Despite the duration of time away from their homes and families, Morris said troops remained confident and upbeat about their mission.
   "I was really impressed by the camaraderie," said Morris. "They have been placed in a difficult situation away from family and friends and yet they can make the most of it, laugh and care about each other and have a good time."