Snow patrol

Weather makes for busy day for Chesterfield officer
By Casey Farrar
Sentinel Staff
Published Feb. 25, 2010
 CHESTERFIELD — He knew it was going to be a rough day when the police cruiser got stuck in the snow on his driveway.

By the time Chesterfield police Lt. Duane M. Chickering reached the police station at 6 a.m. for the start of his shift Wednesday, there was already a report of two tractor-trailers stuck on Route 9.

While Wednesday’s winter storm brushed past Keene leaving only a few inches of snow, about a foot of heavy, wet snow had fallen overnight in Chesterfield, Brattleboro and several other Monadnock Region towns.

Plow drivers had worked through the night, but with snow falling at about an inch per hour around dawn, they were fighting a losing battle.

They aimed to clear Route 9, a main thoroughfare for commuters and delivery trucks, for morning rush hour traffic.

It was the kind of weather that causes schools and even companies to close to keep people off the roads. But for police officers, firefighters and rescue workers, these are often the busiest times — and their responses are crucial.

Sitting in his office at the police station about 7 a.m. Wednesday, Chickering was preparing for the possibility of spending the day responding to crashes and slide-offs. With Chief Lester Fairbanks on vacation, he was the only Chesterfield officer on duty that morning to patrol the town’s 105 miles and respond to calls.

“Oh, this is not looking good,” he said, studying the weather forecast on the computer. Continue reading

‘I would if I could’

Group protests blood donation exemption
By Casey Farrar
Sentinel Staff
Published  February 16, 2010
A group of Keene State College students Monday afternoon stood near the front doors of the Young Student Center asking their classmates and professors not to donate blood for the day.

Upstairs, donors lined up awaiting their turn to give blood at an American Red Cross blood drive — one of two held each year at the school.

It wasn’t the Red Cross, or blood donation in general, that KSC Pride, a coalition of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students, was protesting.

The group aimed to raise awareness about a federal policy dating back to 1983 prohibiting men who have had sex with other men since 1977 from donating blood, said Matthew J. Gill, president of the student organization.

Gill, a senior, was among a line of students holding picket signs and passing out fliers with information about the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s policy that “defers” gay men from donating blood.

“I would if I could” was scrawled on signs hanging around several student protesters’ necks. Continue reading

220th Transportation Company series: Part III

SAYING GOODBYE

After hugs and tears, attention turns to mission

By Casey Farrar
Sentinel Staff
Published February 05, 2010
This is the third in a three-part series on the Keene-based 220th Transportation Company.

On Thursday, friends and family members of soldiers in the Army Reserve unit gathered at the Lower Main Street base to send the group off to Fort Devens in Massachusetts.

The journey is first leg in a handful of training missions across the U.S., leading up to the unit’s deployment to Iraq later this year.

As they said goodbye to their loved ones Thursday, the soldiers transitioned from weekend warriors to full-time soldiers.

It began with the bark of an officer’s voice.

Suddenly, the men and women of the 220th Transportation Company were scrambling around the large, open hall at the Keene Army Reserve base, falling in line behind their platoon sergeants.

The sound of shuffling suede boots echoed off the concrete walls and floor. At the front of the group, two soldiers carried in the American flag and the unit’s red and gold flag.

This formation is the same way training begins every month for the 30 or so Army Reservists gathered at the base Thursday. It’s where the soldiers get their orders before going about weekend training missions.

Thursday afternoon, the unit began a different mission — one that will lead to Iraq by summer. Continue reading

220th Transportation Company series: Part II

Leaving home
By Casey Farrar
Sentinel Staff
Published  February 04, 2010
 
On a snowy Monday afternoon in December, Staff Sgt. Jeremy J. Barcomb’s house in Swanzey is quiet. His sons, 1 and 3 years old, are away at day care and his girlfriend is at work. During these moments alone, Barcomb, 38, runs through a mental checklist of things to do before he leaves.

There are the cars, the heating-oil deliveries, the bills that will need to be paid. Life insurance and a will to take care of.

“It’s hard,” he said. “You feel like you have to think of all of the things that could happen while you’re gone.”

Only a few weeks before, Barcomb and the other members of the Keene-based 220th Transportation Company learned some details of their impending deployment.

They were told to be ready to pack up in early February for a month of training at Fort Devens in Mass-achusetts. There, the soldiers will practice shooting and driving, and begin classes on topics such as counter-terrorism and laws of warfare.

They’ll spend about a month each at bases in Kansas and California, where their training will include learning to operate heavy equipment transporters that can haul tanks and taking part in tactical and battle drills.

Finally, they’ll go to Camp Atterbury, Ind. — their departure point for Iraq. Continue reading

220th Transportation Company series: Part I

This is a 3 part series on a local Army Reserve unit preparing for deployment. To see the full series — complete with a slideshow of photos by Steve Hooper, videos and an interactive chart — visit www.sentinelsource.com/special_reports and click  “Mission: Iraq.”
The call to arms: Varied paths lead to Keene company 
By Casey Farrar
Sentinel Staff
Published Wednesday, February 03, 2010
 
This week, the Army Reserve’s 220th Transportation Company, based in Keene, will leave for four months of training at military bases across the United States.

By summer, the unit will be deployed to Iraq.

In the coming months, the soldiers, who are trained to drive in convoys across the desert hauling fuel and cargo, will also be learning to operate heavy equipment transporters that can carry vehicles such as tanks.

During their training, their lives will shift from part-time soldiers who meet monthly for weekend training missions to full-time soldiers who work, live and eat together every day.

A three-part series of stories beginning today highlights the unit’s preparations for heading into a war zone.

It’s about 6:30 on a muggy Friday night in August and a steady stream of cars and trucks is pouring into the parking lot at the Army Reserve base on Lower Main Street in Keene. Uniformed soldiers climb out of cars, pickups, SUVs, a sedan with a child seat in the back.

They are dads. They are roofers and mechanics and corrections officers. They are teenagers. And eventually, they are going to Iraq.

The mix of license plates from every New England state and a handful of others in the Northeast illustrates the wide geographic net cast by the 220th Transportation Company.

But as the 50 or so soldiers gather later that evening in a large room inside the base, the visible differences among these men and women melt away.

Clad in desert camouflage fatigues, they line up in neat rows, all standing stiffly, feet together, chins up, eyes forward.

“How many soldiers think it’s hot out?” asks 1st Sgt. Anthony N. DelPozzo of Salem as he paces in front of the group.

“Hooah!” the soldiers respond in unison.

“Wait ’til next year,” DelPozzo says. “This is nothing compared to next year.” Continue reading