September 15, 2005
By Spc. Nicki Fellenzer
LAKE CHARLES , La. – The Soldiers of the 229th Military Police Company got the opportunity to receive answers to some of their most pressing questions from the Adjutant General of Virginia on Sept. 13. Maj. Gen. Claude Williams, along with Virginia Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Huffman, visited the National Guard Soldiers who are deployed in support of relief efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
“We wanted to speak to the troops and express appreciation not only for myself, but from the Secretary of Public Safety John Marshall and Governor Mark Warner,” Williams said. “They’re both very concerned about the Soldiers down here, their welfare and how they have been received here.”
Williams held an informal discussion forum with the Soldiers, providing answers to some of their more pressing questions about the length of this latest deployment, their pay issues and their job training.
After having spoken with the Soldiers and the local authorities who have been working with them, Williams was impressed with the professionalism and attitude of the 229th. “I’m personally very pleased with the attitude of the Soldiers who are here,” he said.
“Of course, this is one of our very best units. I just want the families back home to know that they are being taken care of, and they’re doing tremendous work for not only the Commonwealth of Virginia, but particularly for Louisiana and for this nation.”
Huffman was also pleased with the unit’s performance. “My impression, and what we’ve been told by authorities here in Louisiana, is that they’re doing a super job," he said. "They’re doing exactly what’s needed in this time of catastrophe."
Both Williams and Huffman wanted to ensure that the Soldiers’ families were taken care of and their morale kept high. “We’re here to make sure everything back home is taken care of,” Huffman said. “The 229th is unique, because they just got back from deployment in Iraq, and a short time later they’re out here.”
The 229th MP Company was the first unit to arrive at the Pentagon after the September 11th terrorist attacks, and its members served honorably in Iraq in support of the Global War on Terror.
During his brief visit with the unit, Williams reenlisted two soldiers. Staff Sgt. Thomas Jones, a military policeman with the 229th and Sgt. Sharon Hilton, the Communications Chief for the 229th MP Company, both raised their hands and swore to serve in the Virginia National Guard for an additional six years.
“This is another milestone in my military career,” Jones said of his reenlistment, while Hilton emphasized how thrilled she was to be sworn in by the Adjutant General of Virginia. “It’s very different,” she said. “He’s in charge of the state, and it’s just exciting.”
Williams also commended a young Soldier for his dedication to the Virginia National Guard and the 229th MP Company’s mission in Louisiana. Pvt. Ian McAllister has recently completed Basic Training, but has not finished his Advanced Individual Training (AIT). Because he is not yet qualified in his Military Occupational Specialty (MOS), McAllister is receiving no federal benefits for his service in support of relief efforts in the wake of the destruction left by Hurricane Katrina.
Because he is on state orders, McAllister is receiving his base pay and nothing more. And yet, this Soldier has chosen to remain and help the people of Louisiana through this catastrophe. According to Williams, McAllister exemplifies the spirit of the Virginia National Guard.