There were three flights scheduled to send off nearly 500 California National Guard members. They will first head to Texas for training and then head to /*Iraq*/. The flights were scheduled for 10 a.m., 11 a.m. and noon.
The 640th Aviation Support Battalion will be deployed for one year. They are part of Operation New Dawn to support the troop draw-down in Iraq.
The battalion will first spend six to eight weeks in Fort Hood to train for their mission in Iraq. This means that their family members can visit them in Texas for the holidays or the soldiers will be allowed a four-day pass.
Some of the soldiers volunteered for the mission, and the battalion's commander Lt. Colonel Lou Carmona said that makes things easier for the group.
"It's a lot easier with a bunch of guys who want to be there than a bunch of guys that don't. That being said, they go with a heavy heart at times and they're going to miss their families and what not, but this is what they signed up for," said Carmona.
Most of the 500 deploying soldiers are from Southern California - about 75 percent of them live locally. They say communications technology such as Skype and e-mail makes keeping touch with loved ones easier.