JACKSONVILLE, N.C. — A massive troop rotation in and out of Iraq is under way. Of course, Marines and sailors from North Carolina bases are playing a part.
Three Marine units departed Wednesday from New River Air Station.
"You're the envy of a lot of people right now," A commanding officer said during the sendoff. "You're going to do what you trained to do."
The scene was reminiscent of a coach huddling with his players before a big game. But for these Marines, deployment is more than a game; it is real life.
"It's not just a pep talk," Sgt. Maj. Leroy Major said. "It's doggone heartfelt. It's a motivation."
Marines loaded up their gear and boarded helicopters in preparation for their part in Operation Iraqi Freedom, part 2.
"I think it's so important that we finish the job," Maj. Chris Lovejoy said.
Lovejoy and his company were not going to Iraq in a combat role. They work mostly in support capacities.
"We work really hard on keeping these aircraft maintained, and we know we're ready," Sgt. Billy Adams said. "It's not a question."
Even though they won't be on the front lines, these Marines know some Iraqis want nothing more than to hurt Americans.
"The scary thoughts go through the back of your mind," Adams said. "But it's your job, and we're all motivated to go."
About 600 Marines left Jacksonville Wednesday.
About 100 Marines from New River are in Yuma, Ariz., getting trained on rescuing ambushed convoys and evacuating casualties. They will join their units in Iraq later.
Although their rotation comes after the official end of combat, the Marines said it is just as important as the first rotation.
"I think if we were to pull out now, the Iraqi people would lose faith in us," Lovejoy said.
Faith was something Annette Ford held onto Wednesday as her son headed off.
"He's had a lot of training, and he's got a lot of good guys with him," Ford said.
Guys who are ready to support fellow troops as they help a country on the road to recovery.