Some 275 Seabee reservists are headed for Iraq. The group left the Air National Guard base in Gulfport Thursday morning. They're members of NMCB 14, based in Jacksonville, Florida.
The reservists spent the past two weeks training at the Gulfport Seabee Base. Once in Iraq, they'll be helping with various construction projects.
The recent wave of casualties overseas is a further reminder that these activated reservists are heading for possible dangerous duty.
A quiet nervousness was evident as the activated reservists prepared to board the plane. In civilian life, they're police officers, chemical engineers and flight attendants. For the next year or so, they'll be serving their country instead.
"We do this because we want to. We've been waiting since nine eleven to go over there and do this. They're finally giving us a chance to do our job. Makes me feel good," said reservist Robert Jenkins.
"Well, we're pretty excited. We're ready to go. We're going to miss our family. We'll be back soon," said a female reservists as she walked toward the plane.
This is an unusual assignment for NMCB 14. It's the battalion's first deployment to support a military campaign since World War Two.
Patrick Hawkins is an active duty Marine assigned to NMCB 14.
"This unit hasn't been activated in years. But they really stepped up to the ball, got a lot of training and I think we're really prepared to go," Hawkins said.
The reservists are heading to Iraq at a time of increasing danger for US forces. There were 50 US troops killed in Iraq during the month of March. That's more than twice the number killed during the preceding month of February.
"I think we're ready for it. We're prepared for this. And I think we can handle it," said a reservist from Tampa, Florida.
Joining the troops is a seasoned reporter from South Mississippi. It's the second tour of duty for the Sun Herald's Patrick Peterson.
"Well, I'm just a little nervous. I feel a lot better now that I've met the guys I'm going to be with, and made some friends here among the Seabees. Really a nice bunch of folks. So, I feel a little bit more confident," Peterson explained.
The troops spent the past few weeks training at the Gulfport Seabee Base. Their deployment to Iraq is expected to last a year.
The reservists will be supporting Seabees from NMCB 74. Their mission includes building roads, schools and medical clinics in Iraq.