DENNYSVILLE, Maine — The little town of Dennysville wants Maine to keep the National Guard 133rd Engineer Battalion in the state.
The town’s Board of Selectmen approved and signed a letter this week to Gov. Paul LePage in support of keeping the unit in Maine, with copies of the letter also being sent to the state’s congressional delegation.
A proposal by the federal government and Army would remove the 500-person battalion, which dates back to the early 1800s, to Pennsylvania and replace it with an infantry unit. It is part of a plan to restructure the Army National Guard, consolidating units nationwide in order to save money.
One hundred and sixty-seven members of the 133rd currently are deployed in Afghanistan, working to downsize and consolidate the bases there as the U.S. prepares to withdraw its remaining military forces from the country.
LePage joined Brig. Gen. James D. Campbell, Adjutant General for Maine, on Friday morning at Camp Keyes for a video teleconference with soldiers of the 133 Engineer Battalion and the 1035 Survey and Design Team, who are deployed at Bagram Air Force Base, Afghanistan.
“We wish you a safe and speedy return,” said LePage. “Ann and I are looking forward to your homecoming, and we want you to know how much we appreciate your service and sacrifice. Please stay safe.”
LePage was briefed by soldiers on what they have accomplished the past nine months as they near completion of their mission. The Maine soldiers are making final preparations for their return and are looking forward to reuniting with family and friends.
The Dennysville board approved the letter and signed it Tuesday. The copies were mailed out Wednesday, Selectman Mark Willis said Thursday.
The board’s letter cited the value to Maine in having the engineering unit stationed in Maine as well as its historical ties. “We therefore strongly support any and all efforts put forth by you and our Maine Congressional Delegation to ensure the 133’d stays right where it belongs: in Maine.” It was signed by Willis the other members of the board, William Attick and Elmer Harmon.
When news surfaced last month about the engineering battalion possibly being moved out of Maine, the Dennysville selectmen discussed it. “We talked about it amongst ourselves, and we all agreed … to write a letter of support,” said Willis.
The board’s vote was unanimous, said Willis, who drafted the letter for the board.
“Really, what started this conversation with the selectmen in town were the storms last winter,” explained Willis. People in Dennysville were without power “for quite a few days,” he recalled.
“When things like that happen … the question becomes, at what point does the National Guard get rolled out.”
The board has responsibility to help take care of the people of Dennysville, said Willis. “This seemed to us to be a real no-brainer.” The National Guard unit is trained, equipped and experienced at responding to disaster circumstances, he said.
Copies of the letter also were sent to Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King, and Reps. Michael Michaud and Chellie Pingree.
Willis said he wants to “highly encourage” other communities to adopt and send letters of support to the governor and the congressional delegation. He is making copies of the letter available to friends who live elsewhere in Maine and suggested they take it to the governing body in their communities.