Medics from Keesler are among the latest troops leaving home to support Operation Enduring Freedom.
More than three dozen members of the 81st Medical Group left early Monday morning.
Loretta Scott shared a laugh with her friends a few minutes after midnight. A portable DVD player provided a much needed diversion.
"Just a little something to keep our spirits up. Everybody's sad, so we have to do something to pass the time. And keep our minds off our families and stuff," she explained.
Others read or share small talk with one another, trying to keep their minds off the mission. The mood was relaxed in the final moments before they boarded buses. But there was also an underlying nervousness in the room.
"You can mentally prepare yourself so you think, but the minute you get that call, your family, you and everybody that knew it was coming is still taken aback by it. Because it's never reality until it happens," said Paul Roy.
And it doesn't get much easier with experience. Miguel Torres is a 24 year veteran. He knew the call was coming, just like all the others.
"That's what you train for, over the course of our time as medics. We just do our job in the hopes that we never have to do this. But this is what it's all about," he said.
Leaving families may be the toughest part of the mission for many.
"I've got a 13 month old and a three year old and a wife that I love dearly. And they're everything you live for and your entire support. The whole reason you live and do everything you do. And leaving them behind is the hardest thing you'll ever do," said Roy.
The cold early morning air greeted the troops as they boarded the buses.
Commander Dave Young was on hand to wish them well.
Like thousands of other men and women in uniform, they expected this day was coming.
"This is what we signed up to do, so you've got to be ready," said Loretta Scott.
The 81st Medical Group includes some two thousand health care professionals. It staffs the second largest medical center in the Air Force.
We can't tell you exactly how many medics from the group were called up, or how long the deployment might last.