278th unit returning Saturday

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Tennessee Army National Guardsmen who deployed to Iraq in February from Camp Shelby, Miss. - by way of the Lewisburg Armory - are returning to Tennessee on Saturday morning, the Guard's spokesman said Tuesday.

"Part of the 278th is returning" in time for Independence Day, guard spokesman Nate Crawford said, noting the 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment, with troops from Lewisburg, has a total of 3,400 soldiers. "Approximately 265 are returning Saturday.

"Approximately half of that bunch should be from the Lewisburg unit," Crawford said, estimating their number at 125-130 - those who live in Marshall County and the surrounding area. "Some will be early. Some could still be in Iraq taking care of last minute details."

The other troops landing in Smyrna are from a unit in Athens.

Their transport plane landed at about 7:30 a.m. Tuesday in Gulfport, Miss. They're then transported to Camp Shelby and subsequently flown to the National Guard Volunteer Training Site in Smyrna.

"Touchdown time is subject to change, so I'm not going to say now," Crawford said, adding that more details will be announced in a press release issued Thursday for publication here Friday.

Families may meet their soldiers at Smyrna.

"With the 4th of July weekend, I personally expect to see a lot of families there," Crawford said.

Asked why the troops are coming back 5-6 months earlier than expected, Crawford reported from an announcement from Adj. Gen. Terry "Max" Hasten who said it's to meet the national command authorities' command timeline of having less than 50,000 troops in Iraq after August.

On June 14, the state announced that the 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment was expected to be home by the end of August - 5-6 months earlier than scheduled. Until Tuesday, no exact date had been announced.