Hundreds of families, friends and well-wishers turned out Friday for departure ceremonies at Camp Shelby, Miss., for over 3,000 soldiers of the National Guard’s 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment.
The regiment is bound for Iraq, marking its second deployment to that country, the first coming in 2004. Governor Phil Bredesen and his wife, Andrea Conte, were at the military post Friday to see off the Tennesseans, just as they did five years ago. The governor told the assembled soldiers, “Nothing humbles me more than to serve as your Commander in Chief.”
He recognized and thanked families of the soldiers and offered a special “thank you” to soldiers who had deployed more than once, which represented the majority of the members of the 278th. This brings to nearly 20,000 the number of Tennessee Guardsmen called up since Sept. 11, 2001
The National Guard men and women have been at Camp Shelby since early December conducting specialized pre-deployment training.
The highlight of the departure ceremony Friday was a full formation of the 3,000 soldiers, held on the post parade field with a review by Governor Bredesen, Tennessee’s Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. Max Haston, and military dignitaries from across the country.
“It’s humbling to stand before these great troopers, “ said Maj. Gen. Haston.”You are the standard bearers of this nation,” he added. He also thanked soldiers’ families whom he described as, “the Guard family.”
Other notables from Tennessee included Congressman Lincoln Davis, Congressman Marsha Blackburn, Congressman Zack Wamp, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, House Speaker Kent Williams, Commissioner of Veterans Affairs John Keys, and State Rep. Joshua Evans.
The 278th ACR is the Tennessee National Guard’s largest single unit, and the massive deployment affects 45 cities stretching tip-to-tip across Tennessee, all the way from Kingsport in the east to Henderson in the west. These are: Knoxville, Henderson, Selmer, Huntingdon, Waynesboro, Clarksville, Springfield, Milan, Ashland City, McKenzie, Cookeville, Gallatin, Jamestown, Livingston, Oneida, McMinnville, Crossville, Rockwood, Dunlap, Monteagle, Kingsport, Sweetwater, Newport, Greeneville, Smyrna, Lobelville, New Tazewell, Columbia, Clinton, Rogersville, Lafayette, Gordonsville, Humboldt, Parsons, Lewisburg, Shelbyville, Winchester, Maryville, Pigeon Forge, Covington, Memphis, Lebanon, Nashville, Athens and Dayton.