All of the panhandle's National Guard soldiers have finally arrived in Fort Stewart, Georgia, but now that they're back in the country the Guard must find a way to keep them in uniform.
It's been a long year for the more than 700 Florida National Guardsmen who have finally returned home. Frustration is an emotion these troops had to endure at some point during their deployment. When they were activated last January they were told they would be gone for only six months, but things didn't go as planned.
"They were ready to come home after those six months, but in the military you can never predict the future. When you sign on the dotted line you know anything can happened, whether you're in the guard or active duty," Recruiter MSG. Allen Swindell.
But these guard troops never predicted a year of fighting in Iraq. In fact, most, if not all of Panama City's Guardsmen have never been mobilized overseas before last year. Now, many soldiers may leave the Guard in coming years, now that they understand it's a part-time job that can lead to a year or more in a war zone.
"We're going to lose some, but I don't think it's going be like everyone says it's gonna be," MSG. Swindell says.
But MSG. Swindell says it's the incomparable incentives that will keep these troops onboard.
“If our soldiers were out of the country for a year they would not be activated for another six years."
And as these soldiers make their way back to their hometowns they may find comfort in knowing they will have a year off from their regular training.
Master Sergeant Swindell says the guard has taken a hit in the recruitment department as well, but again he says incentives like a 100 percent college tuition and no long-term deployments should keep the guard on top compared to other military branches in the number of recruits.