By Staff Sgt. Rob Strain, 15th Sustainment Brigade Public AffairsApril 21, 2010
CONTINGENCY OPERATING LOCATION Q-WEST, Iraq - Flags hanging from the ceilings of dining facilities across Iraq are a common scene, but the Auburn University flag added to Contingency Operating Location Q-West's Wagonmaster Inn dining facility April 13 is one of a kind.
The flag, which has been signed by Auburn faculty members, local politicians, U.S. Senators and the governor of Alabama, was presented to Col. Larry Phelps, the commander of 15th Sustainment Brigade and an Auburn alumnus, during a small ceremony April 13.
The force behind the flag was Sgt. Benjamin Bryant, a truck driver with the 40th Transportation Company, Special Troops Battalion, 15th Sustainment Brigade, and a Brookings, S.D., native, and his father-in-law, Bryant said.
While Bryant was home on leave, his father-in-law asked if he could get the flag signed, and if he did, if Bryant would take it back to Iraq to hang in the dining facility, Bryant explained.
By the time Bryant returned from leave, the flag had collected 12 signatures, including those of the Alabama governor and both U.S. Senators from Alabama, Bryant said.
Phelps, who accepted the flag from Bryant, was not surprised by the support from his alma mater.
"Auburn is about family," Phelps, a Greenville, Ala., native, said.
The flag serves as a symbol of how much support the people at Auburn give to the Soldiers, Phelps said.
During the ceremony, Phelps told Bryant to thank the Auburn faculty for their efforts, express how proud he was to be an alumnus, and give a bit of advice to the football team:
"Beat Alabama!" Phelps shouted.
Once Bryant returns from the deployment, he will take the flag back to Auburn, where he will present it to the head of the college's Reserve Officer Training Corps program, Bryant said.
The complete list of signatures on the flag are: Alabama Governor Bob Riley, U.S. Senator Richard Shelby, U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions, U.S. Representative Mike Rogers, Alabama State Senator Ted Little, Alabama State Representative Mike Hubbard, Auburn Mayor Bill Ham, Opelika Mayor Gary Fuller, Auburn University President Jay Gogue, Auburn football coach Gene Chizik, Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones, and Auburn's Reserve Officer Training Corps battalion commander Lt. Col. Jon Segars.