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Guard heads off on new mission



Published: Sun, March 24, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The 838th Military Police Company, based in Austintown, leaves for Fort Dix, N.J., on Monday.

By PAUL WHEATLEY

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

Walter M. Duzzny wore three hats Saturday: His usual one as director of the Mahoning County Emergency Management Agency, one as a concerned father watching his son deployed for military assignment and one as a retired military man himself.

Duzzny's son, Jeffrey, is one of more than 100 troops from the 838th Ohio National Guard Military Police Company who are being deployed to Fort Dix in New Jersey Monday.

The 838th, based in Austintown, was honored by military leaders and Gov. Bob Taft at a farewell ceremony Saturday morning at Austintown Middle School.

It's the same unit Walter Duzzny retired from in 1992.

"It's a very personal thing with us," said Walter, who's oldest son, Walter Jr., just returned from active duty with the 75th Army Ranger regiment.

Walter said he had mixed emotions during the ceremony, both of pride and of sadness.

"He and his wife just completed building a new home in Austintown," Walter said of his son Jeffrey, a sergeant.

But now personal lives get put on hold as Jeffrey, who works as a deputy sheriff with the Mahoning County Sheriff's Department, heads off. Jeffrey was among those honored Saturday for completing a six-month mission patrolling Ohio's airports.

Last mission: Sgt. Dennis Minotti also was honored for his service.

This will be the last mission for Minotti, 52, of Columbus -- who said he will retire after the year-long assignment.

Minotti, a Columbus police officer, has been in the military for 24 years and is a Vietnam veteran.

He had mixed reviews after six-months of patrolling airport checkpoints in Cleveland and Columbus.

"Ninety percent of it was a little dull and boring," he said. "Ten percent of it was exciting."

While he said the bulk of materials seized during routine searches of airline passengers included scissors, box cutters and pocket knives, Minotti did help seize drugs from would-be smugglers.

He said one passenger was caught with large amounts of cocaine wrapped in aluminum foil after the foil showed during X-ray and alerted guards.

"That was probably our big drug bust for the deployment," he said.

Minotti said the 838th's new role will be as seven-man emergency responder units at military forts and in Washington, D.C. He said the 838th is the only military police squad equipped with armored Humvees.

But this mission takes him hundreds of miles away from his wife, son and daughter.

He gets 30 days leave during the year.

"I've been in the military since 1968 and I do it because I like to do it," he said. "I could've retired and not been deployed."

Governor: The troops had the honor of being sent off by the governor.

"For me there is no prouder moment than when I look into the eyes of the men and women of the Ohio National Guard," Taft said during the ceremony.

wheatley@vindy.com




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