Army Reviewing Policy That Restricts Guard Members To Camp Shelby

The U.S. Army said Thursday that 3,500 members of the 155th Brigade Combat Team will have Christmas leave with their families before deploying to Iraq.

"Nobody's Christmas leave has been canceled,'' said Maj. Gen. Harold A. Cross, Mississippi adjutant general.

The announcement came after military officials said they were reviewing a decision to restrict the use of private vehicles by members of the 155th Brigade currently training at Camp Shelby. The policy was implemented this week.

It restricts the soldiers to the Mississippi National Guard base south of Hattiesburg. Lt. Gen. Russell Honore, commander of the 1st Army Division, said Thursday that the policy had been revised but details were not immediately available.

Both soldiers and their families had complained about the restrictions.

"It's not right for these young folks,'' Ollie Akmenkalns of Columbus told the Hattiesburg American. "It's not just young folks. It's just an issue that needs to be addressed.''

Officials with the 1st Army Division, to which the 155th is assigned, had said "unlimited access to private vehicles has proven to be a distracter to training focus.'' The 1st Army said it wanted the soldiers to concentrate on training that would "replicate what they will face in Iraq.''

The Army said another concern was the number of vehicle accidents involving members of the 155th. Sgt. Christopher Tisdale, 29, of Ellisville died Aug. 28 when his pickup truck hit a tree and burned while he was off-post on a pass.

The 155th, a unit of the Mississippi National Guard, has been training at Camp Shelby since July and is expected to deploy to Iraq early next year.

The 155th, with its headquarters in Tupelo, was put on alert in May. The formal mobilization announcement came in June.

Once overseas, the 155th will serve under the U.S. Central Command area of operations in the Middle East, Guard officials have said.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)