Members of the 1158th transportation unit of the Wisconsin Air National Guard reported for active duty Thursday. The troops will ship off from Beloit Sunday. They'll be serving in Iraq for the next year. And day one was all about preparation.
Troops sign in one by one. Equipment is checked, distributed and packed up, as members of the 1158th prepare for their mission in Iraq.
"There's been a lot of build up, but now it’s all coming together and we’re getting really charged up," said Private Tracy Schuett.
The 280 soldiers in the unit will be responsible for transporting heavy equipment in Iraq. And the danger is inevitable.
"You try to keep that in the back of your mind. The focus right now is on the mission and getting the job done," said Squad Leader Herb Kaeline.
The 1158th was deployed to Ft. McCoy in March of 2003, but were never sent to Iraq, as expected. So for many this will be their first time serving overseas.
"I'm excited, I know it’s weird to be excited. It’s kind of scary too, but it’s going to be an experience of a lifetime," said Schuett.
Hundreds of family members and supporters are expected to crowd the armory Sunday for the sendoff ceremony, wishing the soldiers well on their mission and hoping for a safe return.
The sendoff ceremony will be at the Beloit armory this Sunday10 a.m. The troops will first head to Fort Benning, Georgia, for additional training, but are expected to head to Iraq shortly after.