Local News

When will Johnny come marching home?

SEBRING - When Florida Army National Guardsmen marched out of Sebring on Feb. 21, a press release was issued. "Soldiers will depart from their respective units on Saturday, traveling first to Camp Shelby Joint Forces Training Center, Miss., for additional training prior to overseas deployment. The mission is scheduled for nine months." At that time, a Guard spokesman said the countdown on that nine months started in February, which means they would be expected back in November. However, Lt. Col. Ron Tittle said Thursday that dates were "subject to change," and that he now expects the 3rd Battalion, 116th Field Army Regiment back in the United States next year.
"They are due to come back around the January-February time frame," said Tittle, the Florida Guard's public relations officer. Will a return-home celebration be scheduled, similar to the Highlands County Fairgrounds sendoff? "Some will come back in small groups," Tittle said. "My guess is that they will probably come back as a group, but that remains to be seen. There usually is a ceremony." The battery will likely report for debriefing to Camp Shelby or another receiving center first, then return to their homes. "That may take four or five days," Tittle said. Each soldier will be thoroughly questioned about illnesses or injuries while deployed. That information will become important if they ever need to file for veteran's benefits, he said. About 325 soldiers from the Avon Park, Arcadia, Lake Wales and Plant City units were deployed to Qatar in support of Operation Enduring Freedom to provide security at several U.S. military installations. gpinnell@highlandstoday.com 863-386-5828