Call to service takes local law officers

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 8, 2003

[1/8/03]After four years in the Navy and seeing no hostile action, Shane Parker has been called up with his Mississippi Army National Guard unit.

“At the time he signed up, nothing was going on, then Sept. 11 happened,” said his wife, Laurie Parker, about his decision two years ago to continue his military career part time.

“I tried to get him to get out, but he said he believes in the reason he’ll be fighting so he needed to go,” said the mother of 6-year-old twins Dillon and Devin and 18-month-old Ally.

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Parker is one of about 20 local sheriff’s deputies and police officers who also serve in the Mississippi National Guard or U.S. Naval Reserve. He’s one of two deputies called to active service Sunday.

Both Parker, a private in the Guard, and John Elfer, a captain in the Guard, were called up Sunday and may spend a year or more with the the Jackson-based 31st Rear Operations unit deployed to Fort Stewart, Ga.

Elfer is leaving his wife, Ollie, and 3-year-old daughter, Alli. “It’s hard on Alli because she does not understand,” Ollie Elfer said. “She just knows Daddy is gone.”

“A large part of my staff are former or are currently in the Mississippi National Guard,” Warren County Sheriff Martin Pace said. “I am very proud of them for what they do locally and what they are undertaking for our country.”

Lt. Col. Tim Powell, Mississippi National Guard public affairs officer, said the duty of the 31st is coordination.

“They are the primary support for the front,” he said. “They have supplies, coordinate and plan movements. It’s a big important job, very critical.”

Vicksburg Police Chief Tommy Moffett said the department would be short-staffed if he lost all officers who are subject to a military call up, but he knows their task is an important one.

“We need everyone working, but if we have to, we will make do because homeland security and the security of our country are very important,” Moffett said.

Two other Mississippi military units were also recently called to active duty to ready for a possible war with Iraq.

The Mississippi Army National Guard’s 113th Military Police Company in Brandon and 16 members of the Mississippi Air National Guard’s 248th Air Traffic Control Squadron in Meridian were called to active duty Tuesday.

Powell said after readying at Fort Stewart, the 31st will deploy to an undisclosed area in the Middle East.

As Parker and Elfer depart, two others return. Deputy Sheriff Jerry Walker, a sergeant in the Mississippi Army National Guard, and Vicksburg Police patrol officer Cammie Branch, a specialist in the Mississippi Army National Guard, came home in early December after being deployed to Fort Campbell, Ky., a year ago with the 114th Military Police Company. They were part of Joint Task Force Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, a U.S. military base on the southeastern tip of Cuba housing terrorist suspects.

Powell said the 31st Rear Operations unit has deployment orders for 365 days, but under the presidential partial mobilization of reserves, orders could be extended for up to 24 consecutive months.