Saturday, November 17th, 2007
By Shelley Grieshop
Donated items will help protect local military headed to Kuwait
  ST. MARYS - Flashing lights and sirens will help protect local soldiers heading to Kuwait, thanks to donations by area law enforcement and one ambitious military mom.
About a dozen used light bars from the tops of cruisers in Auglaize and Mercer county and about 15 radio-siren boxes were distributed Friday to soldiers at Alpha Company, 37th Brigade Special Troops Battalion in St. Marys.
First Lt. Matt Molinski, commander at the St. Marys engineering company, said the equipment will be used in "escalator of force" (EOF) procedures as convoy security when soldiers are on the road. The lights and sirens can be activated if Army vehicles are approached by non-military personnel or vehicles and soldiers feel threatened.
"These are hard to come by," Molinski said of the donated items.
The battalion, scheduled for deployment to Kuwait in early January, is not authorized to purchase such equipment and the government doesn't always have such items to give troops, he said. Sometimes special supplies like light bars can be purchased in countries like Iraq "but they're not near the quality" of those donated Friday, Molinski added.
The project began with a phone call from Anna resident Twilia Elsass to Auglaize County Sheriff Al Solomon. The Shelby County woman had read a story in the "Navy Times" about a similar donation made in Florida.
"The article was about a policeman from Florida who was in the National Guard and got deployed to Iraq," said Elsass, an Auglaize County native.
She explained how the soldier had e-mailed officers back home and asked if they could send emergency light bars, something that made his unit's job easier and safer. The police department sent 50.
"I got this bright idea that we could do that here," said Elsass, whose son, Douglas, is a first-class petty officer with the U.S. Navy.
Knowing Auglaize County a bit better than Shelby County, she contacted Solomon, who "took the ball and ran with it," she said.
"He's quite a guy. He must have made a lot of phone calls to get this done," she said.
Solomon said his department is changing to a different light bar style and gave the battalion the outdated ones.
"We're more than happy to help out," he said. "I think her idea is great."
Solomon did make a lot of phone calls, including one to the Florida police department to find out the necessary steps to get the project underway.
It was like an early Christmas for the local National Guard soldiers when several officers from three area law enforcement agencies - the Auglaize and Mercer county sheriff's offices and the Wapakoneta Police Department - backed their vehicles near a storage garage behind the Armory on Friday and began to unload the supplies.
Elsass, who currently is on oxygen and a heart monitor, heard about the generous response and was delighted. She told The Daily Standard that she's not usually an instigator of such projects, but felt this was important.
"When a woman gets a brainstorm, I guess you better watch out," she added with a laugh.
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