Members Of 1108th Prepare For Iraq Deployment

Over the next month about 200 members of the Gulfport-based 1108th AVCRAD will be finishing up their training before being deployed to Iraq in October.

Their mission is to help maintain the Army's fleet of aircraft.

Members of the 1108th AVCRAD replaced the main motor blades on a U-860 helicopter Sunday afternoon.

"They're in the process of putting all of them back on where it will be ready for an operational test flight, probably in the morning," said Lt. Col. David Williams of the 1108th AVCRAD unit.

This is an opportunity for the guardsmen to sharpen up their skills as they prepare for a deployment to Iraq.

The unit's mission is to maintain the army's fleet of aircraft overseas.

"It's not a matter of how fast that they work on it. It's a matter of the precision that they use and the precision tools that they work. And there is a productivity requirement because the soldiers up front are waiting for the soldiers to return, whether for Medivac aircraft or fire power support," Lt. Col. Williams said.

Just outside the hangar, two members of the unit prepare for a flight run to hone up on their flying skills.

This training comes on the heels of more than a week's worth of training in Hattiesburg.

"We've been at Camp Shelby, going through basic soldiering skills, everything from throwing hand grenades to low crawling, and down the road, we'll do some ground fire exercises, we'll do some field training exercises. Those are the basic soldiering skills, but here at the airport, we're getting back to our flying and mechanic skills, which is what we will be doing overseas," said CW3 Jamie White.

These soldiers say they are more than ready to fight for their country, but want to make sure they have the edge should the moment arise.

"It's a cliche in the army, but people always say you'll fight as you train, so we're taking our training very seriously and working very hard so we will fight as we train," CW3 White said.

The deployment for members of the 1108th will last about a year and a half.