WEST JORDAN — Men and women in camouflage shouldered backpacks or carried papers and bags as they climbed onto a charter bus headed for Hill Air Force Base this morning, the first leg of a six-month federal deployment to Kuwait.

The soldiers were members of the 1st Battalion of the Utah National Guard 211th Aviation Group, based here. They will fly Apache attack helicopters while patrolling Kuwait for the next six months. Some may rotate out in less than six months.

They were taking eight Apache helicopters with them.

Family members hugged them, some with tears in their eyes. As soldiers stepped onto the bus, they delivered a snappy salute to those left behind.

All together, 150 soldiers will be part of the deployment, which is the largest for the Utah National Guard since Operation Desert Storm a decade ago. The units are leaving in four separate groups through Sunday, with today's detachment amounting to 28 men and women.

Rochelle Dolim, Sandy, was there to see off her husband, Sgt. Robert Dolim, a communications sergeant. She explained to their 11-year-old twins that a small country (Kuwait) is being bullied by a larger country (Iraq), "and the little country asked for our help."

Sgt. Dolim was thinking of last-minute things he wished he had done.

"I'm nervous — anxiety — the feeling that there is a lot more that I need to do before I leave," he said. "Little things I didn't get done."

But then it was time for him to board the charter bus and take off.

Capt. Thomas Greene, Orem, said he has mixed feelings about the deployment. "On one hand, it's a good opportunity, probably a once-in-a-career opportunity. But I'll miss my family. The timing's real bad."

Greene and his wife have children 4 and 2 years old and a baby 1 1/2 months old.

Pfc. Mary Ellis, 18, Orem, said that she was nervous but also very excited. "It's a chance of a lifetime. I'm very happy and very proud that I can serve," she added.

She will be in Kuwait for the entire six months but doesn't necessarily have to interrupt her college career. She is a student at Utah Valley State College, Orem, but intends to take classes in Kuwait. Asked if she was afraid, she replied, "Not at all. I'm very confident about our unit's abilities. We are very strong."

The teenager has been in the National Guard for about a year. Sending her off were her parents, sister, brother, in-laws and friends.

Chief Warrant Officer 3 Steve Rugg, Stansbury Park, who is a pilot for the Highway Patrol in civilian life, will be flying Apache helicopters in Kuwait. Asked whether he was concerned about Iraq's recent aggression (that country fired a missile at an American U-2 spy plane in the past few days), he said he's always concerned, "but I don't think that should cause us to go about our jobs in any different manner." He noted he has been in the military for 18 years and his family understands "that things like this come up as far as a job."

Seeing him off were his wife, Ann, and six of their children, with the eldest having to be at work.

"I'll just be glad when it's all over," Ann Rugg said.

She noted that the military has been helpful about taking care of family needs. "They always try to make it easy on the spouse."

Sgt. Ivan Jozefek, Ogden, said of the deployment, "Hey, I think it's great. I want to spend as much time there as I can, see if we can make a difference while we're out there this time."

E-MAIL: bau@desnews.com