Lumpkin County Commissioners are hoping the 12 members of the Georgia National Guard 48th Brigade come to the December 17, 6 p.m. meeting of the BOC.
“I think it would be proper to honor those who served from Lumpkin County,” said Commissioner Bobby Mayfield.
Deputy County Clerk Helen Miller said she was able to reach 10 of the 12 by phone.
“Eight said they would be here or try to be here, and two said they couldn’t come. But I haven’t been able to reach two of them,” she said.
Also invited are members of the American Legion, brass from the 48th and members of the Lumpkin County Veterans Affairs Advisory Committee.
2nd Lt. Will Mayfield and 2nd Lt. Edgar Rojas are among those who have committed to come.
Will is Mayfield’s son. Born and raised in Lumpkin County and a LCHS graduate, Will was a member of the first JROTC Corps of Cadets at the school. Will also attended the University of North Georgia as a member of the Corps of Cadets while already in the Georgia National Guard. He left before graduation to attend Officers Candidate School, commissioning as a 2nd Lieutenant.
In December 2018 he deployed to Southeast Afghanistan, where he served in Ghanzi Province, returning home to Lumpkin County in September this year.
“My job was helping to run logistics for the ANP [Afghan National Police],” he said. “I went on missions with them, helping them do their jobs in the day-to-day fight against the Taliban and ISIS.”
It wasn’t all patrolling, however. It also involved helping the ANP prepare for the future, when American troops would be gone from the country.
“The Afghans tend to think about the needs right now, not the long run,” Will said. “We tried to help them better project what their needs would be.”
One of the problems he ran into as Battalion Logistics Officer for the 2nd Battalion 121st Infantry Regiment was getting the Afghanis to accept women into their ranks.
“The Afghan people were very opposed to that,” he said.”I heard our lieutenant colonel talking to the ANP’s colonel when a woman came up and offered water to the two. The ANP colonel gave her a look …. Our colonel had to lay down the law right then and there.”
He and the soldier he served with were not out of danger from combat situations, but the “biggest threat was not the enemy. It was falling on the ice” during the first three months of his deployment, Will said. “We were a bunch of Southerners.”
Windburn was another danger—something he experienced for the first time during a ride in a helicopter.
“I couldn’t understand why nobody wanted to sit by the open door. I thought it would be great, being able to see the country below us. Now I understand about winters up North,” he said.
But the hardest part of his deployment, Will said, “was the emotional part—being away from family and friends. My father served with the 48th in Iraq, and he sent care packages constantly. And we did have internet access, unlike the days in 2005.”
Receiving copies of The Nugget while stationed away from home was one of the things he enjoyed.
“It was kind of hit or miss, but it meant a lot to me and the locals. If I ever see Mr. Aiken I will give him a firm handshake and a big Thank You,” he said.
Will is leaving in January for the Guard’s Captains Career Course, but he is weighing his options about the future.
“I’m taking it year by year. We’re attached to the 3rd Infantry Division and we’re on their deployment schedule, so we have increased deployment. We’re scheduled to deploy again is 2022. I don’t know where we’re going,” he said.
For right now, Will is teaching special ed in the LC school system.
2nd Lt. Edgar Rojas also committed to being present. Rojas served January-July 2019, attached to Special Forces in Nangarhar Province with the task of preventing ISIS fighters from entering the country from Pakistan.
When asked if he and his platoon saw much action, he replied, “Often enough.”
In addition to keeping enemy forces out of Afghanistan, Rojas had the opportunity to assist in the medical unit while there. The experience influenced his future, he said.
“I’ve always wanted to be in the medical field. I thought I wanted to be a doctor. Gaining this experience in the Guard I am leaning more to becoming a PA [Physicians Assistant]. They have more interaction with the soldiers than the doctors,” he said.
Rojas plans to stay in the National Guard, but will be moving to Augusta in the spring to start graduate school to become a PA.
“Even though the Guard fills up my weekends it doesn’t feel like work,” he said. “I enjoy the relationships I’ve built with the soldiers.”
The one thing that was difficult about being deployed, he said, was “knowing that if anything came up with my family there was nothing I could do about it. That, and missing out on special events like birthdays and stuff.”
Rojas said he was “thankful for all the support from my family, my church and the Dahlonega community. They have been astounding.”
American troops have been in Afghanistan since 2001. At the height of deployment there were 100,000 American men and women serving there. Though the number is substantially lower today, and all will be coming home soon according to Washington, there is good reason to honor those who served there.
“These brave soldiers of Georgia’s own 48th Brigade Combat Team chose to serve a cause that is greater than self; even knowing they'd be sent into harm's way. And in this time of persistent conflict, for the better part of a decade, our warriors have endured tour after tour in distant and difficult places; they have protected us from danger; and they have given others the opportunity for a better life,” Bobby Mayfield said. “During the Iraq War, the Dahlonega Boys stepped up and answered the call of duty as those before them had done. Even though those brave men have moved on to other things, the Dahlonega Boys persist and every time America issues the call, a new set of Dahlonega Boys will rise to the occasion and show the entire world what it means to be a citizen, a patriot, and a soldier.”
If you are a member of the National Guard 48th Brigade and plan to attend the Dec. 17 ceremony and have not already done so, please contact Helen Miller at the County Commissioners Office, 706-864-4732, Extension 3, then 1.