802nd Ordnance set to deploy
Sgt. Michael McMillan had already gotten on the bus Sunday morning with other Aiken-based Army reservists who are headed to Afghanistan next month with the 802nd Ordnance Company.Moments later, McMillan, a UPS Brokerage staffer, raced over to give his wife Shenese one more kiss before leaving for the next year. Actually, Shenese will get a few chances to say goodbye. Also a member of the company, she will not be deployed. However, Shenese will travel to the 802nd headquarters in Gainesville, Ga., on Tuesday and then go on to Ft. Hood, Texas, where Michael will go through processing at the same facility where 13 people were killed by an Army major Nov. 5."I'm just grateful that they didn't leave here earlier," Shenese said.She and her husband met as members of the 450th Ordnance Company in Aiken and served together in Kuwait in 2003-04. In 2006, the 450th was inactivated and folded into the 802nd as Detachment 3, along with another company from College Park, Ga.About 28 reservists attached to Aiken will be deployed among a total of about 120 from the 802nd. Their assignment this time will be much different from the last deployment in Kuwait."We're going into a combat area in Afghanistan," said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Ronald Mitchell. "We'll be right in the middle of it. We'll handle all the bullets, artillery projectiles, mines, bombs, grenades - everything you can think of that's conventional."After 27 years with the 450th Ordnance Company and now the 802nd and 34 years of service overall, Mitchell had thought about retiring this month upon turning 60. When he learned of the pending deployment last February, the longtime WSI-SRS staffer decided to delay his departure.Many of the experienced reservists had left or went on active duty after 2004, and Mitchell was concerned about the relatively small numbers of troops who had served in Kuwait. The Army is more modernized, Mitchell said, but there's still a need for the old-timers like him and Chief Kevin Coley, both of them commissioned officers."I wanted to go over there this time," Mitchell said. "One thing our reservists have over the regular Army is that they want to be there. We're a family with a lot of military pride, and we drill each other constantly."The Aiken-based detachment has a total of about 55 reservists, said Coley, a Savannah River Site manager. Those being deployed were selected to fit particular job positions."I was in the Navy for 15 years and, after I got out, joined the Army Reserves in 1998 with this unit," said Coley. "My goal was to get to my 20 years. But it's not a bad gig, and it's been 24 years. Now my goal is to get to my 30."What the reservists need right now is more experience, he said."We don't get to practice what we do until a time of war, so you lose proficiency," said Coley. "Once we get to Ft. Hood, half the guys will do a rotation in Oklahoma for a week and then the others the second week. We'll rotate back to Ft. Hood and should head out before Christmas."From 1982-88, Sgt. Tim Singleton of Wagener spent four years in the Navy and two more on reserve duty. A welder for a sign company, he re-elected for the Army in 2006 and was signed to the 802nd."I grew up military," Singleton said. "My dad was traveling all over the place, and I was born in Germany. I've always been military-minded and knew I would get deployed. I hope my experience helps in getting some pride and professionalism with the young guys."Michael McMillan spent nine years on active duty with the Army and joined the now-802nd Ordnance Company in 2002. He and his wife Shenese thought they both might be deployed again, but this time Shenese will stay home with their daughter, Jakeriya, 6."I'm OK with this," Shenese said. "Being here with my daughter is great, but I want to be with my husband at the same time."Shortly before the reservists left Aiken, the McMillans were posing for a photograph when SSgt. Peter Griffin jumped in besides them as the picture was taken. Shenese playfully pushed him away, saying, "You're not family." She laughed about it a few minutes later."We all just talk to each other like that," she said. "We really are family."Contact Rob Novit at email@example.com.