By Ashley Rowland, Staff Writer
The last planeload of Tennessee National Guard soldiers returning from Iraq arrived a day late because their plane broke down in Germany, according to military officials.
The trail contingent of 165 soldiers that was responsible for moving the 278th Regimental Combat Team's equipment out of Iraq arrived in Gulfport, Miss., at 7 p.m. CST Wednesday, according to a National Guard news release. Originally the group was scheduled to arrive Tuesday afternoon.
"Those things happen," said military spokesman Randy Harris. "Everything (else) seems to have gone extremely smoothly."
Sgt. Harris said soldiers have stayed at Camp Shelby an average of five to six days after arriving in the United States.
"We've gotten them home in good time. We have seen other units that have not outprocessed as quickly as they have," he said.
Members of the Knoxvillebased unit had been stationed in Iraq for a year and began returning to Camp Shelby, Miss., Oct. 24 for out processing.
About 500 soldiers still remain at Camp Shelby, Sgt. Harris said. Most of those soldiers are expected to be home by Thanksgiving.
The 278th was the largest group of Tennessee National Guard members to be deployed since World War II.
Lt. David Andrews arrived in Tennessee a few days ago. He said it will take time for soldiers to adjust to civilian life.
"It's a little awkward for a lot of guys. Since last June, they've spent 18 months as part of the Army family, conducting patrols and combat operations," he said.
Soldiers trained at Camp Shelby and in California for about six months of their 18-month deployment. Ten soldiers from the 278th died in Iraq.
Members of the 278th fought insurgents in northeastern Iraq, opened dozens of schools, dug wells, improved roads and helped set up electricity, water and sewer systems.
They also provided security during the January 2005 Iraqi elections and assisted the Iraqi Army during the recent vote on the Iraqi constitution.