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Winterville National Guard Company 514 answers freedom's call

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Members of Company 514th prepare to march from deployment ceremony, Sunday, at the ECU Pirate Club


By Tyler Stocks
The Daily Reflector

Monday, August 13, 2018

It was a day for hugs, a few tears and recognition of the sacrifices made by military families.

One hundred sixty men and women from the Winterville North Carolina Army National Guard's 514th Military Police Company said goodbye to friends and family at a deployment ceremony on Sunday morning at the ECU Pirate Club at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.  

The soldiers will head to The Guantanamo Bay Naval Station in Cuba which will serve as a home away from home for 10 months as they assist with external security operations in support of Operation Enduring Freedom-GITMO, an ongoing mission of the base's Joint Detention Group.

After months of enduring sweltering heat at an army base in Virginia, practicing on firing ranges, policing patrol lanes, participating in low crawling and high crawling, briefings and online courses, the company of soldiers is ready to serve their country. 

Captain Ashley Morris, who serves as Commander of the 514th, thanked the hundreds of people who packed the Pirate Club lounge.

“Without your love and support, our mission would be virtually impossible to achieve,” Morris said. “I know this time apart is not going to be easy but your soldier is doing their part for our great country. I've never been as proud as I currently am. These soldiers have stepped up their game. They have successfully completed the first phase of our pre-deployment and have shown they are the right ones for this mission.”

State Rep. Greg Murphy lauded the soldiers for their bravery and wished them well in their mission.

“Today you begin the mission for God, country, friends, and family,” Murphy said. “Today we must carry our beliefs — belief in freedom, belief in our God, belief in our country — out to the rest of the world because there are those who seek to annihilate it. We cannot be naive enough to think that is not true.”

Kenneth Reid, a father of five, whose wife is pregnant, admitted he is worried about being away from the newborn and his youngest daughters, who are two and four.

“I'm definitely worried about the little ones as I'll be gone for an extended period of time,” Reid said. “I know my wife is going to take care of things. Being able to call home is going to be a big help though. I'm mainly worried about my baby girls; my older boys kind of understand.”

Fredrick Yebuah, executive officer of the 514th said his comrades are ready for this high profile mission. 

“We're pretty excited about this deployment and while it is not a combat mission, it is a pretty-high profile mission,” Yebuah said. “We are prepared to engage it.

“We always have email and phone but the really hard part is for the ones back home,”  he said. “They have to continue with their everyday lives while we're continuing our mission down range.”

Pitt County Sheriff Neil Elks also was in attendance.

“It's a great honor to come out here today,” Elks said. I am personal friends with several of the people being deployed. It's an honor to recognize their leadership and integrity and see them being able to accept the responsibility of keeping our country free.”

According to a news release, The 514th Military Police Company was organized and federally recognized on 27 April 1926 and served in WWII with the 30th Infantry Division. Since 1990 the 514th has deployed five times for federal service multiple times: 1990 Operations Desert Shield and Operations Desert Storm, 1996 Operation Joint Endeavor, 2003 Operation Noble Eagle, 2004 Operation Joint Guardian, 2012 Operation Enduring Freedom – Afghanistan.

The 514th has also been called to numerous State Active Duty missions to support civil authorities of note during the 2016 Charlotte Riots and Hurricane Matthew.

Now the time has come to serve again, something Morris said her troops are ready to do. 

“It is now time for us to leave the ones we love; it's time to honor and support the freedom of the United States,” she said. 

Contact Tyler Stocks at tstocks@reflector.com or 252-329-9566.  Follow him on Twitter @TylerstocksGDR