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National Guard helps out at Old Frontier

Chris Smith received the whole militia after responding to direction from God.

During a recent monthly equestrian event at the Old Frontier Christian Camp, Mr. Smith said he received direction from God to pick up the microphone and start speaking to the crowd while they waited for barrels to be reset. The Chairman of the Board of Directors of the camp said he wasn't sure what to say, so he just started talking about the camp's purpose and plans. During the short speech, Mr. Smith said he pointed to a large pile of dirt and explained that equipment was needed to move the dirt and build up a road and parking area.

Listening to the speech was National Guard Sgt. First Class Jeffrey Gabriel, whose daughter was participating in the barrel race competition. SFC Gabriel said he told Mr. Smith that he belongs to a National Guard Unit in Augusta that is a combat heavy construction equipment company.

"We have motor graders, earth movers, front end loaders, that type of stuff," SFC Gabriel said. "It's an opportunity to provide service to the community and at the same time for us to get our soldiers on the equipment and train. Everybody benefits from it."

Nine members of the 877th Engineers Search and Extraction Unit from Augusta, under the leadership of NCO Staff Sergeant Donovan Maynard, came to the camp just outside of Thomson last Saturday and brought several pieces of heavy equipment. The group worked all weekend and created a road and parking lot around the multi-purpose building on the campground.

"Not knowing what it was about, my first reaction when he came up to me was "National Guard? What's that all about?' It's wild," Mr. Smith said. "It's been great this weekend. I've been able to talk to them and enjoy and appreciate them and what they do. There's more to them than just going to war."

In Iraq, SFC Gabriel said the unit's mission is to push dirt berms and build up protection for forces. Stateside, the 877th Company provides disaster relief for hurricanes, natural disasters and emergencies as part of the Georgia Joint Task Force 781 Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and high-yield Explosive (CBRNE) Enhanced Response Force Package in cooperation with the 781st Battalion out of Kennesaw and other units.

Most of the work at The Old Frontier involved driving the motor grader and front end loader.

"Those guys love that kind of work. They don't get to do it often stateside, because there's not a lot of training areas to go in and do it," SFC Gabriel said.

Soldiers working at the camp last weekend were from all around the area.

"When I heard we were coming out here, I thought, 'That's cool, I'm helping my hometown,'" said Pvt. Eric Colrud, who works at Culpepper Ford.

Before the work could be done, SFC Gabriel said they had to get approval from the Environmental Protection Agency and form a memorandum of understanding between the Georgia National Guard and The Old Frontier specifying which party was responsible for each aspect of the project. SSgt. Maynard said almost 90 percent of the project was completed, and they will return in February to finish.

Other soldiers on the work team include: SPC Kenneth Clayton from Appling, SPC Lindsey Fowler from Atlanta, SPC Donnel Hinkins from Statesboro, SPC Lisa Flanagan from Atlanta, SGT Raymond Swarmer from Augusta, SGT Ronnie McCullom from Warrenton and SSG Maynard is from Harlem.

Web posted on Thursday, January 17, 2008

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