National Guard Troops Prepare To Head Overseas

More than 100 National Guard soldiers from South Mississippi said their "good byes" at Camp Shelby Wednesday morning.

Members of the 1108th AVCRAD are headed overseas to support "Operation Iraqi Freedom".

Soliders with the aircraft maintenance and repair group began their training for this deployment in early August. Hurricane Katrina interrupted the training schedule, but the storm didn't deter these soldiers' mission.

"They have done well. They are ready to deploy to Southwest Asia to support the defense of this great country," said 1108th AVCRAD commander James Young, as he thanked the soliders in advance for their service overseas.

The deployment is doubly difficult for these men and women of the 1108th. A wartime assignment is tough enough duty. This one comes just weeks after Hurricane Katrina.

"Despite their personal hardships, these soldiers are continuing the mission. And in doing so are showing their superior character, dedication and sense of duty," said Young.

Separation from family is the uncomfortable cost of any overseas deployment. The Davis family from Hancock County is sending both son and father.

"We're proud to serve. And it's tough on families. As well as, this is the toughest part right here," said James Davis, as his eyes filled with tears.

"I'm the Army wife. And it's a tough job keeping the house together while he's gone," said Ocean Springs resident Patricia Allen.

She looks forward to a new year. Katrina claimed her house this summer; now the call to duty is taking her husband.

"It's real tough. We've got a four year old. And three daughters as well. It's been a mess. But I know that God's got them. I've got a duty to perform and I'll do it," said soldier and husband William Allen.

Gen. Harold Cross commands the Mississippi National Guard.

"You'll now join the 86 hundred other Mississippi National Guardsmen who are either now deployed or have been deployed in the global war on terror. And it's called patriotism. God bless each and every one of you who've raised your hand and said, send me," he told his troops.

The soliders will be deployed overseas for at least a year.

The 1108th AVCRAD is responsible for maintaining the Army's fleet of aircraft.