Tennessee Guard Unit Deploying From Gulfport

At Gulfport's Air National Guard Base the men and women of the 278th Tennessee Armored Cavalry Regiment waited to board the planes that will take them to California.

As the call came to line up, the guard members say after three months of intense training at Camp Shelby, they're ready for the next assignment, Fort Irwin, California.

Lt. Colonel Jeff Archer says, "It's a training center approximately the size of the state of Rhode Island, desert terrain in the middle of the Mojave desert and we've known we were goin' there the whole time for what's called a mission rehearsal exercise."

The exercise will take place in an environment similar to the Iraqi desert. They say the physical training is very strenuous.

"The training's been very tough, very realistic. We've been put through a variety of scenarios," says Major Carla Decker.

Rhonda Jones says, "It's been pretty tough. A lot of us got in a lot better shape than what we were to begin with so we learned a lot of new things."

The 278th will spend four to six weeks in California. Then it's off to war to serve their country.

"We've become acclimated and we've gotten very accustomed to the training and we're ready to do what we need to do and get on back home to our families," says Warren Lawson.

But as the planes took off early Thursday afternoon, no one could say for sure when any of the soldiers will see their families again.