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Story Last modified at 10:25 a.m. on Thursday, March 17, 2011

'Arctic enforcers' deploy to Afghanistan

3rd Maneuver Enhancement Brigade Public Affairs Officer


Lt. Col. David M. Oberlander (right) and Capt. Christopher Gehri salute the colors during the 164th Military Police Company's deployment ceremony March 14 at the Buckner Physical Fitness Center on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. The company deploys soon to Afghanistan for 12 months to help train Afghan police.
Photo by Staff Sgt. Jason Epperson

Military service members, leaders, friends and family honored the soldiers of the 164th Military Police Company during a March 14 deployment ceremony at the Buckner Physical Fitness Center on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.

The unit, part of the 793rd Military Police Battalion, 3rd Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, will deploy to Afghanistan for a 12-month rotation in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Known as the "Arctic Enforcers," the unit served earlier in Afghanistan from March 2005 to March 2006 and in Iraq from July 2007 to September 2008. Members will train Afghan police, said Capt. Christopher Gehri, the 164th MP Company commander.

"You make me incredibly proud," Gehri said to his soldiers. "I am confident in your abilities, in your training and in your character. You've proved that you're ready for the mission, and your leaders are ready to take you into the fight.

In attendance at the ceremony were Brig. Gen. Raymond P. Palumbo, United States Army Alaska's commanding general, Command Sgt. Maj. David Turnbull, USARAK's command sergeant major, Command Sgt. Maj. Charlie Lane, 3rd Maneuver Enhancement Brigade (MEB) command sergeant major, and Col. Barry K. Williams, commander of the 3rd MEB.

"During the past year, this unit has trained hard to prepare for the mission," said Lt. Col. David M. Oberlander, the 793rd MP battalion commander. "They have completed individual, team, squad and platoon certifications, conducted a National Training Center Rotation, qualified and conducted advanced weapons training on all of their assigned (weapons) and just two weeks ago, they culminated their training with mounted and dismounted live fire exercises which pulled all these skills together. They are ready!"

After the remarks, the casing of the guidon commenced. The 164th MP's top enlisted soldier, 1st Sgt. Kendrick A. Black, rolled up the company's guidon as the final step in deployment preparation. The casing of the guidon is an Army tradition that symbolizes the movement of a company to a new theater of operation.

"I'm proud and honored to deploy with the 164th (MP Company)," Black, a native of Los Angeles, said.

"There's no bigger honor for a 1st Sergeant to serve as a 1st Sergeant in combat with an MP company."

Pfc. Kip Fairley, the 164th MP Company's guidon bearer shared his pride.

"For me, being a guidon bearer pretty much embodies all of the leadership and values we were taught in basic," Fairley, a native of Wichita, Kan. said. "This is like a beacon," he said, holding out the guidon. "So being able to hold it in front of everyone and all my battle buddies are looking towards me is a great honor."

Many of the families were at the ceremony to show their support for their loved ones. Spc. John Obrien's wife Marie was in attendance with their son, Johnathan, and their daughter, Briana. This will be Spc. Obrien's second deployment to Afghanistan.

"Stay active; stay very busy," Marie Obrien explained her plans after her husband deploys. "(Do) a lot with the kids. It's good to stay in a routine. Every day is a routine."

For other Soldiers, this was their first deployment.

"I'm excited. I'm ready to go down there," said Pfc. Justin Salerno, from Birmingham, Ala. "I'm kind of nervous, but not too bad. I want to go down there with the mission in mind and do as much as I can."

This article published in The Alaska Star on Thursday, March 17, 2011.