Eighty-two soldiers from the Minnesota National Guard are on their way to Fort Lewis, in Washington state, before heading for a year-long deployment in Iraq.
The 204th Area Support Medical Company will supply combat medics and other health services to troops already serving in Iraq. About two-thirds of the unit is making its first trip to the war zone.
"I think there's definitely a different feeling compared to 2003 [and] 2004 when we sent our first units over there," Brigadier General Joe Kelly, a National Guard commander, said. "It's still a very dangerous place, its still a combat zone.
"Bad things are happening every day. But I think particularly our soldiers who have been there before, when they go back for a subsequent deployment, they call, they write back and say things are different. We are making progress. Things are calming down."
The soldiers will join about 15 hundred National Guard members already in Iraq.
More than 80 members of the 204th Area Support Medical Company are saying goodbye to their families, their friends and jobs today for a year-long deployment to Iraq.
They'll be joining about 15 hundred other Minnesota National Guard members in the war zone.