By Melanie Patterson
The North Jefferson News
Independence Day will have a whole new meaning for George Billits this year.
Rather than celebrating the holiday with his family, Billits will be beginning a tour of duty that will take him to Iraq.
Billits, of Pleasant Grove, is a member of the Alabama Army National Guard. His unit is Det. 1, Charlie Co., 1st Battalion of the 1\31st AR in Calera.
The unit deployed Tuesday.
Billits, a police officer with the Warrior Police Department since November 2006, was honored by the city council during a recent council meeting.
“I’d like for the council and everybody to unite and pray for him while he’s gone,” said Johnny Ragland, the council member who oversees the police department.
“He’s turned out to be a great officer,” said Ragland during the meeting. “We thank you and I admire you for going to Iraq.”
Mayor Rena Hudson, Ragland and other council members then gave Billits a standing ovation to thank him for his upcoming tour of duty.
Billits enlisted in the military nine years ago while he was a student at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
“It just seemed the right thing to do,” he said.
Billits comes from a family of military men.
“Almost every male in my family has served in one branch of service or another,” Billits said.
That includes his father, Ray Billits, who has been in the military for 36 years. Ray and his wife Barbara Billets live in Springville.
George Billits is married to Jamie. They have a son, Jordan, who is 2.
Billits said that leaving his wife and son behind will be the hardest part of the deployment.
“I’ve got mixed emotions,” said Billits. “I’m excited in a way, and in a way I’m a little bummed out because I don’t want to leave my little boy or my wife.”
The way Billits sees it, when a person enlists in the military, he or she takes what comes.
“I’ve been in for nine years. It’s time to pay for those nine years,” he said.
Billits has been talking to his son about the deployment, but said that Jordan is too young to really understand.
He and his wife have prepared photographs to show Jordan while Billits is in Iraq. He said he also hopes to have access to the Internet so he can keep in touch through email.
While Billits said his wife is having a hard time with it, he said his parents are accustomed to deployments.
“My side of the family is used to people being deployed. They pretty much know how to deal with it,” he said. “My mom doesn’t like it, but she understands.”
Billits said that his boss at work also understands.
“Warrior has been great about it,” he said.
Although Billits has no vacation or sick time to use, Warrior Police Chief Ray Horn allowed him to take time off work to spend with his family.
“He’s a good officer. We’re really going to miss him,” said Horn. “He’s really fit in well and caught on to everything real fast.”
By law, the department must hold Billits’ job until he returns from the deployment. But even if he didn’t have to, Horn said he would gladly welcome Billits back into his job.
“We’ll be glad to have him back,” Horn said. “We’re just real proud of him for what he’s doing. We’re praying for his safety and for his wife and son.”
As a quick reactionary unit, Billits’ unit was deployed to help out during hurricanes Ivan, Dennis and Katrina. On those missions, his unit took over the areas and was responsible for enforcing curfews and policing.
This will be his first deployment overseas.
Billits’ job in the military is as a reconnaissance scout.
In other words, “We go find the bad guys,” he said.
His unit also does route reconnaissance.
Billits’ orders state that his deployment will be for 400 days.
However, “the Army can change that anytime they want,” he said.
One thing that makes the prospect of the deployment easier is the close bond he has with the men in his unit.
As a combat arms unit, there are only male soldiers.
“We’re like a huge family,” said Billits. “We’re like a bunch of brothers. You know who’s there that you can depend on and who you can count on to help you out. If I need something done, I know who to go to.”
Billits is a specialist, or E4 pay grade, but will soon be promoted to sergeant, or an E5.
By Melanie Patterson