Some members of 776th to return home to fanfare


Photo by Abby Morris City Finance Director, Brad Moffitt, shakes hands with SFC Jerry Hinkle of the 776th Maintenance Company outside the National Guard Armory where friends, family and local officals gathered to welcome about 40 members of the unit home on Sunday afternoon.
By Tom Wilson and Abby Morris
Star Staff
twilson@starhq.com; amorris@starhq.com
Forty members of the 776th Maintenance Company, Tennessee National Guard from Elizabethton, will be returning home today from Fort Campbell, Ky., after being deployed January 20 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
Brad Moffitt, Elizabethton director of finance and former commander of the 776th Maintenance Company, said others in the unit would be returning home in the near future.
Members of the 776th, traveling in a school bus, will receive a police escort when they arrive at Elk Avenue, near Grindstaff Chevrolet, between 3:30 and 3:45 p.m. Sunday.
The convoy bringing soldiers back to Elizabethton will travel east on Elk Avenue, turn left on Sycamore Street, turn right on Broad Street and proceed to the Tennessee National Guard Armory on Highway 91. They are expected to arrive at the armory between 3:45 and 4 p.m., where they will be dismissed and greeted by family members, local government officials and others.
Deacon Bowers, chairman of the Veterans War Memorial Committee, urged residents to show their support and welcome the returning members of the unit as they travel along Elk Avenue to the Tennessee National Guard Armory.
"This will be the first contingent that is being released as a group," said Moffitt. "We don't have any date about future releases, but we hope it won't be very long until all of them come home."
Moffitt said single members of the 776th had been released from active duty during the past month due to military retirement and other cases.
Among recent returnees, Richard Haney has rejoined the Elizabethton Police Department as a patrol officer while Churchhill Hill has returned to the Elizabethton City Schools.
Moffitt said commander of the 776th, Capt. Larry Northcutt, would address the troops today. The next group of 776th soldiers deactivated would be returning with vehicles, he added.
"A second contingent will be bring back vehicles, so it will have more like a parade when they come back," Moffitt said. "We don't know if the second contingent will bring the entire unit back or not."
Sources who wished to remain confidential told the Star that other members of the company would be returning home in December. The source also stated that approximately 40 members of the 776th would be staying behind at Fort Campbell after the rest of the unit returns home in December in order to continue post support and troop demobilization missions.
The 776th was deployed from Elizabethton in January and have since been stationed at Fort Campbell in what has been described as "a two-fold mission."
According to Col. Malcolm Atkins of the 3397th Garrison Support Brigade, members of that Brigade, which the 776th serves under, have two main duties while activated at Fort Campbell.
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. But this was only one of the duties which the company had. "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 initial time period, the main focus of the Company shifted to the second part of their mission.
In addition to helping Army units which have been mobilized prepare to be deployed by inspecting and repairing their equipment to ensure that it is combat ready, the 776th also helps to maintain Fort Campbell in the absence of the units which were deployed from the base. In this part of their mission, members of the 776th "augment" the current staff which remains at Fort Campbell.
"Fort Campbell does not have a maintenance aspect to take care of the day to day duties of maintenance," Atkins said. "This is where the 776th comes into play. The 776th was mobilized in January to fill in for the maintenance shortage."
When the members of the Army stationed at Fort Campbell who were called to active 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.