National Guard to deploy soldiers

Columbia’s unit will be deployed as security at locations in the United States.
Friday, January 16, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 12:35 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 5, 2008

Three young men sat in black plastic chairs around a table at Mojo’s on Wednesday night. The table closest to the stage is cluttered with their musical instruments.

A sense of excitement surrounds the members of Mile 48, a Columbia band, and tonight is their farewell show. Twenty-one-year-old bassist Roby Hopkins is being deployed.

Hopkins is a specialist in the Missouri Army National Guard 128th Field Artillery Battalion in Columbia, commanded by Lt. Col. Mark Parks and Command Sgt. Maj. Thomas McRoberts. Hopkins joined the guard in June 2001. In November, half of the soldiers in the 128th unit were mobilized, as well as half of the 129th Field Artillery Battalion, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Iraq.

The second deployment involves eight armory locations in Missouri: Boonville, Columbia, Hannibal, Kirksville, Jefferson Barracks, Marshall and Mexico, according to 2nd Lt. Jamie Melchert of the State Public Affairs Office of the Missouri National Guard. There were 250 soldiers mobilized in November, and now the Army is looking for about 150 more.

According the Melchert, the soldiers are being deployed in support of Operation Noble Eagle, a mission that will keep the soldiers in the United States performing security duties at military installations or government facilities.

The soldiers will leave Thursday for Fort Eustis, Va., where their mobilization station is located.

“They told us there was going to be a second deployment,” Hopkins said. “So I’ve known that it was probably going to happen. I’ve kind of just been sitting around waiting for the call.”

Mile 48 was formed in April 2003 through introductions by a mutual friend Hopkins met in basic training. Now that Hopkins is leaving, the band will have to rearrange itself.

“We’ve just got our feet in the water,” said Josh Jaynes, drummer and backup singer. “It’s frustrating because we are ready to get the ball rolling, and now we have to take a step back.”

Hopkins was notified Jan. 5 that he was being called to duty.

“I won’t be going to Iraq,” Hopkins said. “Anything they give me is better than that, so I’m not really worried. They told us to plan on being gone for one year, but it could be more or less time.”

As for Mile 48, guitar player Scott White and Jaynes plan on keeping it going until Hopkins returns, when they will resume with the original lineup.

“I don’t know if I can take my bass with me, but hopefully I can,” Hopkins said.

“I don’t think I’ll have enough time to start a band, but I’ll probably jam around with people.”

A departure ceremony for the troops is being planned for Wednesday in Columbia.

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