Contra Costa Times December 2, 2001
GUARDSMEN GET IT IN GEAR TO SERVE IN PERSIAN GULFTOP-NOTCH DUBLIN UNIT'S MEMBERS SAY THEY'RE EAGER TO STOP READING ABOUT HISTORY AND MAKE SOME INSTEAD
By Kiley Russell
DUBLIN -- An elite company of California National Guard infantrymen soon will leave its base in the rain-soaked Livermore-Amador Valley and head for the deserts of Kuwait.
The 160 men of Bravo Company will leave in late January to help deter attacks on the tiny oil-rich nation and help enforce the no-fly zone over southern Iraq.
"Everybody in our unit actually wants to go and be a part of what's going on in the world today. Instead of reading about history, they want to go out and make some," said 2nd Platoon Sgt. Larry Hollingsworth. Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 184th Infantry Regiment will replace the 184th's Alpha Company. The latter unit has, for the past several months, provided security for regular army units at Camp Doha, the largest U.S. base in Kuwait and key to American military strategy in the area since the end of the gulf war.
While the company's Kuwaiti deployment was scheduled long before the Sept. 11 attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center, the men will walk into a region of heightened tension following President Bush's recently ramped-up rhetorical barrage directed at countries suspected of harboring terrorists.
Many international observers believe the next phase of America's 3-month-old anti-terrorism campaign could be directed against Iraq, Somalia, Syria or Sudan. The soldiers from Dublin seem eager for their assignment.
"The first thing I'm concerned with is doing a good enough job for my guys, rather than worrying about the bad guys," the 39-year-old Hollingsworth said.
Bravo Company soldiers come from all over the Bay Area and as far away as Fresno to train one weekend a month and two weeks a year at their base at Camp Parks Reserve Forces Training Area in Dublin. In civilian life they are lawyers, janitors, police officers and construction workers. They range in age from the early 20s to mid-40s, and many have military experience.
"We have people from the highest profile careers to the bottom of the food chain working at Wal-Mart trying to save money to go to college," said Capt. Jesse Miller of San Francisco.
All of them, however, bristle at the notion they are anything but hard-core infantrymen, capable of any mission entrusted to full-time professional soldiers.
"For the last couple of years, we've been rated No. 1 out of 40 light or air infantry battalions in the National Guard," the 31-year-old Miller said.
The 184th is an air assault rifle regiment trained to rappel from hovering helicopters and hit the ground fighting -- an unusual role for most National Guard units.
In addition to its statewide mission of providing riot control and disaster relief, the regiment is part of the 29th Separate Infantry Brigade, one of several National Guard brigades formed after the gulf war that receive the latest training and weaponry.
"(These are) units that can be mobilized for relatively short periods of time, and they give you a mobilization capacity that you can rely on when you need it, and you don't have to pay for full time when you don't need them," said John Pike of GlobalSecurity, a Washington-based military think tank.
"They typically consist of soldiers who have spent time in the active military and they're more experienced than regular soldiers," Pike said.
That may be small comfort to the families that will go without husbands and fathers and the companies that will lose employees for the 4 1/2 months Bravo Company is off trudging through the deserts of Kuwait.
"I'll take on a couple of projects I've been putting off so I'll have something to focus on. There will be lots of prayer and lots of support from friends and family," said Lori Hollingsworth, Larry Hollingsworth's wife of 15 years.
The couple shares a home in Campbell, and Larry Hollingsworth commutes to his job at CPU Tech in Pleasanton.
"I'm probably going to spend a lot of time at the gym. I told Larry I hope to be half the person when he gets back," she said.
©2001 Contra Costa Times