Local Guardsmen expected to return early from Iraq

From Post staff reportsMaj. Gen. Max Haston, Tennessee’s Adjutant General, announced today that the state’s largest Army National Guard unit, the 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment, will return from Iraq earlier than scheduled.  Lebanon’s Guard unit is a part of the 278th.The first units of the regiment returned last week with approximately 250 Soldiers from armories in Maryville, McKenzie and Henderson.“In order to meet the National Command Authority’s timeline of less than 50,000 combat troops in Iraq after Aug. 31, 2010, soldiers of the 278th have begun leaving their Iraqi bases and heading back to the United States,” Haston said. “We are extremely pleased to welcome these brave soldiers home earlier than planned.”According to Guard officials in Nashville, there has been no scheduled return as yet for the Lebanon unit.However, the Guard’s public affairs office reiterated that all members of the 278th are to be home before the end of August, which he said is several months ahead of when the soldiers were initially told that they would return. The return will be carried out in phases with the Regiment returning home over two to three months. The first soldiers arrived at Camp Shelby, Miss., in mid-June for demobilization. The remaining troops will demobilize through Camp Shelby in groups through the end of August.“We thank them for their service and we thank their families and employers for the outstanding support shown throughout this deployment,” Haston said. “The 278th continues the tradition of excellence shown by the nearly 20,000 Tennessee Soldiers and Airmen deployed since Sept. 11, 2001, and the generations of Tennessee Volunteers who served before them.”The 278th mobilized in December 2009 for one year, with plans originally to return around December 2010. After pre-mobilization training at Camp Shelby, the unit deployed to Iraq in February 2010.The 278th is headquartered in Knoxville and is composed of more than 3,400 soldiers from across the state.Additional arrival times will be announced as they become available, according to National Guard headquarters in Nashville.