Gulfport Guard Members Prepare For Deployment

Members of 255th Air Control Squadron say they were not surprised when they learned President Bush had called them to active duty. Some responded by saying, it's about time. They are clearly ready to serve their country.

"People that are civilians don't understand why we'd want to get into a position where we could be shot at," 255th member Larry Key said. "This is my country and I'm going to make sure it is safe and if that requires me to shoot at people or get shot at, then that's okay."

"It's a determination backed with the experience of what we do," 255th member Roberta Key said.

"This is why I came in four years ago and I can't wait," 255th member Stacy Graves said.

Larry and Roberta Key are not just fellow Guard members, they're also married. Their two teenage children will be left with friends if both parents are sent overseas. Leaving family members at home is what Guard members seem most worried about.

"You have to think about leaving your family and what they're going to do while your gone, who's going to take care of things," Larry Key said.

"I find myself not being so nervous about myself or my where my position is, but more nervous just about other people and other families that have really been devastated due to what had happened," Graves said.

"It's a mix of feelings," 255th member Christopher Marks said. "It's a mix of pride and fear. It's like, I have butterflies in my stomach not knowing where we're going to go and, like I said, it's the pride of knowing who you're going with and how you're going to accomplish your goals."

Christopher's wife, Allison, is proud that her husband will serve, even though she'll be left alone to explain to a young daughter what's going on.

"I just explain to her, there's some bad people and they killed a lot of people and daddy's going to have to defend the people so that it doesn't happen again," she said.

They admit this conflict will be much more difficult than Desert Storm for the military and our country, but the 255th says they're ready and fully expect complete success.

There are 250 members of the 255th; however, some of the people in the unit may not be deployed. The last time this unit was deployed was in 1999. Members were sent to Kuwait to help enforce the no fly zone over Iraq.