278th Prepares Just in Case

By: Stephen McLamb
By: Stephen McLamb

Knoxville (WVLT) - With the President announcing more than 20,000 extra troops will soon be on the ground in Iraq, could soldiers from East Tennessee be among them?

Having already been to Iraq once before, several area soldiers say it's all mental preparation rather than physical at this point, since they just don't know if they'll be called.

But it's been a year since members of the 278th returned, and some are facing new issues in life.

After hearing a call-up of more than 20,000 troops by the President, members of the 278th are making sure they're ready.

"That's with our war fighting skills, taking care of our soldiers, taking care of the families of the unit," says Sergeant Paul Williams from the 278th.

And the military may have more help this time, since the 278th went to Iraq the first time, as recruiters are meeting or exceeding their goals with $20,000 signing bonuses and age increases to 42 which have been surprising.

"Actually the attrition rate is about a third of what it was. That age group there, they're doing better in basic than young folks are," National Guard recruiter Master Sergeant Doug Pritchett says.

But preparing for a possible call-up could be easier for the 278th.

"Got some lessons learned from the last time and I think that helps us to do this properly this time," says Captain Brad Asplund, from the 278th.

But it's been a year since the 278th returned from their last tour and things change.

"I'm married and expecting," says Sergeant Rebecca Kitts, from the 278th.

So some are having to prepare in new ways. "Me and my husband would have to make some decisions because he's in the guard too so we're both in the 278th so we both have to," Kitts says.

Preparing for a possible leave might be easy for Capt. Brad Asplund, but he's a newlywed to a wife who's not in the military.

"Probably just instilling a comfort level for her if that situation arrives," says Capt. Asplund.

But preparing can be equally as tough for those not married.

"I'm single. I have a home. We've all got bills so you've got to prepare yourself," Sgt. Williams says.

As far as recruiting, Master Sergeant Doug Pritchett says they have better strength now than before September 11, 2001.

What effect the President's announcement will have on Tennessee's military is not yet known although we are awaiting a release from the 278th at any time.

When we get that information we'll pass it along to you.


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