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Community awaits return of soldiers

Community awaits return of soldiers
Community awaits return of soldiers | Long Heights Baptist Church, McKenzie, 278th Armored Cavalry Unit, Tennessee National Guard
IN HONOR OF – Long Heights Baptist Church placed a field of flags on its grounds in McKenzie shortly before the 278th ACR was deployed to Iraq in December. The flags represent each member of the Armored Cavalry Regiment. Upon the soldiers’ return home, the flags will be given to each member of the unit in a special ceremony. Six months prior to their expected return date, the first round of soldiers returned early last week with more to follow within the next two to three months.             Photo by Marguriet Frazier

Friends and family members of the more than 3,400 soldiers of the 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment received a welcome surprise last week when they learned members of the largest Tennessee Army National Guard unit were returning home six months before their expected schedule date.
The first units of the 278th ACR began arriving to their home state of Tennessee June 16. The 250 soldiers from armories in Maryville, McKenzie and Henderson arrived in Smyrna last week.
On Monday, members of Milan’s Troop C, 1st Squadron of the 278th ACR were scheduled to come home. The 125 soldiers were expected to arrive in Smyrna Monday.
Shortly before their deployment to Iraq in December of last year, members of Long Heights Baptist Church lined their church grounds with flags that represented each soldier deployed to the Middle East from the 278th ACR Unit.
Upon their return home, the soldiers will each be presented with a flag from the church grounds in a special ceremony.
Soldiers with the 278th ACR have begun leaving their Iraqi bases and heading back to the United States in an effort to meet the National Command Authority’s timeline of less than 50,000 combat troops in Iraq after Aug. 31 of this year, according to a press release issued by the Tennessee National Guard last week.
The return will be carried out in phases with the Regiment returning home over the next two to three months.
The 278th mobilized in December 2009 for one year, with plans originally to return in December 2010. After pre-mobilization training at Camp Shelby, Miss., the unit deployed to Iraq in February 2010.
The unit is headquartered in Knoxville and is composed of more than 3,400 soldiers from across the State of Tennessee.
WCP 6.22.10

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