By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
Alabama Army National Guard troops, often a strong presence during statewide emergencies, have not yet been called out in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. That being the case, the citizen soldiers decided to help out behind the scenes.
Guard units across the state, including those deployed from the Atmore armory, are pitching in to help keep their respective community’s first responders fed.
“The Army National Guard in Alabama is feeding first responders,” said Sgt. Travis Pruitt during an April 15 South of the Border supper for city police officers and firefighters, in the APD squad room. “We’re just saying thank you to the community by feeding them.”
Pruitt worked four years as a city fireman before joining the local police force. Shortly after he became a police officer, he was called up for a three-year Guard deployment. He serves as a recruiting officer for Escambia, Monroe and Conecuh counties.
He said the closing of all state public schools left Guard units with a surplus in their food budget. Feeding first responders was a good way to make use of those funds, he figured.
“We got this from (a local Mexican restaurant), and the money came from our luncheon fund,” Pruitt explained as police and firefighters tore into piles of steak, chicken and beef tacos and Mexican rice. “We usually use this money to feed high-schoolers we’re trying to talk into joining. The high schools are closed, so …”
City firefighters were called to a vehicle blaze just as the meal began, so Sgt. Thaihee Staples, Sgt. Josh Dorriety and APD officers Gordon Brooks, Josh Hochstetler, Turner Mason, Cody Nall and Tristan McAnally got dibs on the feast. There was plenty to go around, though, and the policemen were later joined by AFD Capt. Zack Stewart, Lt. Wayne Kelley and Firefighters Jesse Boone and A.J. Beachy.
Other police and fire personnel, as well as at least one ambulance crew, were able to partake of the takeout tacos as the evening progressed.
“Pruitt is doing good things for the community,” said Stewart of his former firefighter comrade.
Staples expressed the appreciation of the entire APD throng, equating the midweek repast to a family gathering.
“It’s a good meal,” he said. “We’re all one family, and if things were to get worse, we’re gonna call them (National Guard troops) anyway.”