MARION — Afghanistan is the eventual destination of an Army Reserve unit based out of Marion with members from throughout Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia.
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The 760th Engineering Co. will muster for active duty and leave Thursday for pre-deployment training in Mississippi, according to 760th Company Commander 1st Lt., and soon to be Captain, Ron Arnold, a Kingsport resident.
The 760th Engineering Co.'s personnel consists primarily of Southwest Virginia and Northeast Tennessee residents but with some members, Arnold said, from other states.
The Marion unit's leadership are all Kingsport residents. Besides Arnold, a 1998 Dobyns-Bennett H.S. graduate, 760th Co. 1st Sgt. Kenneth Addington and Arnold's second in command, the company executive officer, are Kingsport residents as well. The company XO requested his identity not be published.
"Southwest Virginia and Kingsport make up the bulk (of the 760th's personnel roster), but I've got cross levels from as far away as New York, West Virginia and Pennsylvania, and just a little bit of everywhere. But the majority of the company comes from Southwest Virginia and Northeast Tennessee," Arnold said.
This is the 760th Engineering Co.'s first deployment to Afghanistan, although the unit was deployed to Iraq in 2004-05. Arnold has previous experience in Afghanistan, serving from 2005-06 as a staff sergeant with the 926th Engineering Co., a reserve unit based in Alabama.
The 760th Engineering Co. is primarily a "vertical" construction outfit that can "basically start from the ground up, from clearing and grubbing to, well, we can build any kind of structure, wood or steel," Arnold said.
The company's primary purpose in Afghanistan will be of the unbuilding nature, however.
"Our primary purpose over there will be packing up, closing bases and stuff like that," he said. The United States is in the process from disengaging from large scale military operations in Afghanistan with a goal of most, if not all, combat troops out of that country in 2014.
"Over there, we will more or less be tearing down, packing up and shipping back home," Arnold said.
Arnold has served as the commanding officer of the 760th Engineering Co. for about two years. He said his soldiers are raring to get to it. The unit will serve on active duty for about a year, including pre-deployment training stateside and post-deployment processing.
"Most everybody is looking forward to it. It will be the last opportunity for an overseas deployment, especially to Afghanistan, so my troops are looking forward to it," he said.
"Their families, I think, everybody is in pretty good spirits."
Plans are for the 760th Engineering Co. to leave the Marion Army Reserve Center Thursday morning with a stop at Town Hall to be presented a flag from the mayor, then proceed to pre-deployment training in Mississippi. The Army asked that precise deployment time frames, training destination location and the like — other than in general terms — remain unpublished.
Meanwhile, the flag presented to the company will accompany the unit during its deployment.
"People in Marion will be lined up to see us off I imagine," Arnold said of Thursday's departure.