As sectarian warfare erupts in Iraq, the New Jersey National Guard is preparing to send hundreds of citizen soldiers to the Persian Gulf. It is, however, a long-planned deployment, and they're heading to Qatar, several hundred miles down the gulf from Iraq.
"I'm excited for all the experience," Private 1st Class Anna Cho, of Ft. Lee, NJ, told NBC 4 New York.
Cho and 461 fellow soldiers will be providing base security in Qatar as the Defense Department moves countless tons of equipment out of Afghanistan, for shipment back home.
But Qatar has its own split between the Sunni and Shia factions of Islam, and while it is stable now, the soldiers are aware the religious violence could spread, as it has in the past.
"That's what we spent the last year getting them ready to protect themselves against," said NJ Guard Adjutant General Michael Cunniff.
And while President Obama has said there will be "no boots on the ground" if the United States responds to the ISIS attacks in Iraq, the soldiers of the 114th will be among the closest U.S. troops if the president changes his mind.
"If the President sends us over there (Iraq), he sends us over there. I follow orders," said a Lt. Nathan Headd, from Paterson.
Meanwhile, the troops move out for a last round of training in Texas on Thursday, then to Qatar around mid-July for nine months of duty.
Specialist Ryan Kreger of Manalapan spent a last few moments with his family Wednesday. When asked what he tells his young kids, he said "Daddy's going to work and Daddy'll be home as soon as he possibly can."