155th Sends First Wave To Iraq - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

01/04/05

155th Sends First Wave To Iraq

Samuel Hunter recorded the C-17 that was about to haul his military unit to Iraq. "It's the first time I've ever seen a plane like this, this big," the 155th Armored Brigade guardsman said. "This is a momentous occasion for all of us here."

A small component of the 155th Armored Brigade was packed and ready to go. The advance team was ordered to Iraq to coordinate where the rest of the 3,800 member brigade would go when it left Mississippi. Joshua McCracken is on that team. He looked relaxed, but looks were deceiving. "Kind of nervous. Kind of excited," was how McCracken described how he felt, waiting for the flight to Iraq. "Just ready to go, get it over with, go home."

A heavenly sunset gave Charles Duckworth one final gift to take from Mississippi to Iraq. The 155th guardsman is also a Bay Springs minister. "The first thing I think about, I think about how muich God has blessed me," Duckworth said. "And I know that he enabled me to get this far, and he'll lead us back home."

Only a few dozen members of 155th had their duffle bags rolled onto the C-17. The other supplies came from a guard team based in Vermont. Melvin Patty is with the east coast unit. Training kept the 2nd 172nd Armored Battalion away from families during the holidays. "A little depressing," was how Patty described the mood during training. "But I'm here to do my mission. And I'm ready to go."

Just before the plane left Gulfport, Samuel Hunter sent a message to the families of the 155th. "Don't worry about us. We'll be all right. We'll be home in a year," he said.

Until Sunday, the 155th was on leave. But Monday, the guardsmen who didn't board the C-17s were ordered back to Camp Shelby. And that's where they were told to stay until their mission to Iraq began.

by Brad Kessie

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