Goodbye to a Part of the Team
Just when Lieutenant Colonel David Johnson was asking around for a copy of the company's lineage of military service, the lineage came walking through the door. One by one, grayer and somewhat heavier than they were decades ago, a column of former members of the 988th Supply Company filed in through the door marked "authorized personnel only." Today, on Sunday, September 10, 2006, they were not only authorized, but welcomed as well. They came to be with the current members of their old company, now the "988th Quartermaster Company," on its last day of existence. As they met, they hugged, smiled, and cried just a tear or two. Memories of old friends, good times and doing good things erupted, just like they happened last weekend. They were citizen soldiers, regular men who gave up their weekends and families to serve their country.
The foyer of the Army Reserve building on Martin Luther King Drive is filled with plaques of the unit's outstanding service to the Army. As the 988th Service and Supply Company, they were the Most Improved Unit in 1981. They were the Supply Unit of the Year. The 988th was presented a plaque for their outstanding service in providing hurricane relief in El Salvador in 1999. Among the honors on the wall is a Supply Excellence Award for Category C, Level II. The 988th Supply Company was activated in 1957 in Dublin.
A descendant of the all black 988th Supply Company in World War II, the 988th was located first in the old Coca Cola Building on South Jefferson Street which later housed the distribution facilities of Royal Crown Cola. The first company commander was Captain John Q. Adams. J.C. Lord was the company's initial first sergeant. Many of those present at the inactivation ceremony joined the company in the 1960s. They were responsible for providing spare parts and supplies to nearly two hundred army units in Georgia and Florida.
Among those present at the ceremony were former company commanders, John Griffin and Gene Carr, both of Chester, Georgia. One of the company's most popular commanders was the late Major Paul Wilkes, who served in the reserve in his spare time and taught thousands of Dublin High School kids the elements of chemistry and physics in his day job. Another popular commander of the unit was Bill Roberts of Dublin. Ernie Fultz and some of the others joined the company in January 1966 when the McRae company and other smaller units merged to form a consolidated unit. With a larger force, the company relocated to an armory on Central Drive in East Dublin in 1967. In 1968 at the height of the Vietnam War, the 988th Supply Company was on the list to be activated for duty in Vietnam. There were C-105 aircraft dispatched, ready to ferry the men across the Pacific for the company's first truly hazardous duty. After a careful scrutiny of the cost involved, Army officials decided to keep the 988th in Dublin.
Ralph Page, who served in the company from 1974 to 1993, remembered that some of the members helped build roads in Panama during the 1980s. The crowning achievement of the units service came during Operation Desert Storm in 1990-1991, when the company was awarded a Meritorious Unit Commendation for extraordinary meritorious service.
The 988th was called to active duty in the first Gulf War in 1991. David Bell remembered that they flew to New York, where they joined other units from across the country. From New York, they flew to England, where they made a short stop before flying on to Saudi Arabia. They arrived in the middle of the night. There was no one there to greet them. "There were no buses. No one had expected us to arrive," Bell said. He fondly remembered the next afternoon turning on the radio and listening to the Atlanta Falcons game. "On the 22nd day of December we headed north into the desert. We spent our Christmas there in the desert. We had plenty of Claxton fruitcake to eat, maybe 200,000 pounds of it," Bell added.
During the ceremonies, Billy Harrell rose to speak on behalf of the guys from the past. Harrell spent twenty-six years in the Army Reserve, twenty one of them in the 988th. He thanked Ernie Fultz for "being a daddy to all of us." Harrell proclaimed that if they had enough trenching tools and enough liquid refreshments they could have conquered the world back in the 1960s. Harrell emotionally expressed his pride in being a member of the company.
Private Wright, the newest member of the company, opened the ceremonies with a stirring rendition of the "National Anthem." First Sergeant Henry James, the temporary commander of the 988th in the absence of Captain Beverly Rackston, explained the mission of the unit. James read a letter from Captain Rackston, now stationed in Kuwait, which saluted the men and women of the company and stated that "Every soldier must realize that they are part of the team."
Lieutenant Colonel David Johnson, commander of the 352nd CSB in Macon, rose to speak next. Colonel Johnson, who drove down from his Marietta home at six o'clock this morning, spoke of his love for command. His love for being a commander is derived from the appreciation he has for his soldiers. Finding it hard to believe, Johnson told the audience that the Army is transforming itself into a more modular expeditionary force to fight terrorism. "This does not end your careers," he told the soldiers. Some of the soldiers will stay in Dublin as a part of the 803rd QM company , based in Opelika, Alabama. Others will be sent to Macon to join Colonel Johnson's command. Still others will join units across South Georgia. Johnson concluded his comments by saying that in his travels around the world, the supply units and the American soldiers are truly appreciated.
The guest speaker for the day was Laurens County Sheriff Bill Harrell. Sheriff Harrell thanked the soldiers for their willingness to answer the call. He said that many don't realize the commitments that these soldiers make. In wishing the new and old members of the company well and applauding them for their sacrifices, Harrell concluded by saying that these men sacrifice themselves and their families to help a country realize their freedoms, which we, in this country, too often take for granted.
After the colors were officially retired, the ceremony was completed. Someone finally found two stacks of old pictures of the company back in the good old days. Memories began to flow again. For as long as there is a member of the 988th Supply Company, the memories, well, they will always be there.
The Army is not leaving Dublin; the 988th Supply Company is being transformed from a company to a platoon, which will from now forward be under the command of the 803rd Quartermaster Company. Many of the company's soldiers are now deployed overseas in support of Operations Endurance and Iraqi Freedom as a part of the team protecting the world from terrorism.