Part of the 165th Airlift Wing, based at Savannah-Hilton Head International Airport, is en route to the Middle East today. This is the first time the unit has been activated by a Presidential order since the Korean War. About 15 guardsmen left; two planes were supposed to leave, but one was grounded because of maintenance problems and is expected to leave very soon.
The guardsmen spent the morning getting briefed on their trip, learning what activity is going on in the areas they are flying over and in the area where they will land in the Persian Gulf. This historic trip will take them about three days, though and it may take only two because of good weather conditions. Many of the guardsmen are volunteers and are leaving behind their families and other jobs.
"I've impressed on our soldiers the last few days, there are not many times in history that people make history and know they are doing it at the time," Gen. David Poythress of the Georgia Air Guard told us.
"I would say we're incredibly ready," added Lt. Col. Steven Melton.
Lt. Col Melton flies for Delta when he is not flying a C-130 for the National Guard. He spent the morning in briefings and going over flight plans preparing for a trip he knew was inevitable.
"I knew this was going to be a big operation," he said. "I knew if we weren't part of it, we weren't needed, so I saw it coming."
As Melton and crew got a pep talk and made final preparations, his mom, Elaine Berry, watched with tears.
"You pray for the ones who go ahead, but you never think yours will get the call in reality," she said.
The plane was loaded with equipment, which they will use to support the forces on the ground in the Persian Gulf. And at 7:30am, Lt. Col Melton taxied by his mom and dad, taking his crew to defend our country.
"I'll tell you the mission of the airplane," said Melton. "That is tactical airlift, we bring things for the Army close to the battle area, dropping beans, bullets and personnel."
"That's my only son and I can just pray he's safe until I hear from him," Berry said.
The 165th Airlift Wing will be deploying more guardsmen throughout the week.