Unit based in North Charleston headed to N.C.

Marine Reservist Sgt. Gerald Smith has never been deployed on an overseas mission.

In January, the Branchville resident and 27 other men from North Charleston-based Company C, 4th Landing Support Battalion, will begin a mission that will take them to Iraq, possibly into 2009.

The company will be leaving Jan. 7 for three months of training at Camp Lejeune, N.C.

In April, they will head to Iraq with a unit of Marines based at Camp Lejeune.

"They are getting completely retrained for a new job," 1st Sgt. Kevin Pietsch said. "They are going into an infantry role. They will train as one unit for a security mission."

Smith, 37, who works as a loader at Holcim Inc. cement plant in Holly Hill, has served as a Marine Reservists for eight years.

"I'm kind of excited about going but kind of hesitant about leaving," he said.

The husband and father of two young children learned about the mission in October.

Leaving his family will be hard, but he's confident his wife will get along just fine.

"She knows I have to go," Smith said. "She will take care of things while I'm gone."

Smith is looking forward to learning something new.

"We will get plenty of training before we go," he said.

Smith usually trains once a month at the Remount Road facility near Charleston Air Force Base, but on Thursday he and his company were busy filling out paperwork and learning to drive Humvees and heavy trucks.

He expects to be deployed for at least eight months.

He doesn't know if he or the unit will be home next Christmas.

"I'm trying to be positive about that," he said.