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NEWS | Dec. 5, 2011

First group of Sandston-based National Guard aviation battalion returns to USA from duty in Iraq

By Cotton Puryear | Virginia National Guard Public Affairs Office

Approximately 275 Virginia Army National Guard Soldiers from the Sandston-based 2nd Assault Battalion, 224th Aviation Regiment, 91st Troop Command returned to the United States Dec. 3 and 4, 2011 after serving in Iraq since April 2011. The Soldiers are the main body of about 325 total Soldiers from the unit returning to Virginia, and they will spend about seven to 10 days conducting a number of different administrative and reintegration demobilization activities at Fort Hood, Texas to transition from active duty back to traditional National Guard status prior to returning to Virginia.

The remaining approximately 50 Soldiers from the battalion are scheduled to return later this month, but their exact return date has not been finalized.

These Soldiers are the second group of Virginia Guard Soldiers to return from Iraq in recent days. Approximately 120 Soldiers from the Suffolk-based Troop B, 2nd Squadron, 183rd Cavalry Regiment, 116th Brigade Combat Team returned to the United States Dec. 1, 2011 after serving in Iraq since August 2011. The Soldiers are part of a group of about 825 Soldiers from across the commonwealth who mobilized for duty in Iraq as Task Force 183 under the command of the Portsmouth-based 2nd Squadron, 183rd Cavalry Regiment. 

Approximately 1,100 Virginia National Guard Soldiers are scheduled to return from Iraq in December, and about 260 Soldiers and Airmen are currently serving on federal active duty in Afghanistan.

The battalion, also known as "Task Force Punisher," mobilized more than 400 Virginia and Maryland Army National Guard Soldiers for duty in Iraq in support of Operation New Dawn Feb. 25, 2011, with the mission of conducting air assault and combat support aviation operations in order to facilitate combat, peacekeeping and sustainment efforts to build a secure and stable environment in conjunction with the Iraqi National Government. The task force consists of the headquarters company, three assault helicopter companies, the aviation maintenance company, the forward support company and one attached aero-medical helicopter company totaling more than 520 Soldiers, 30 UH-60 Black Hawk assault helicopters and 12 HH-60M medical evacuation helicopters.

“I continue to be in awe of Task Force Punisher Soldiers and what they are capable of doing, especially during these extraordinarily historic times and events,” said Lt. Col. Neal Edmonds, commander of 2nd Battalion. “They have overcome a variety of unique and significant obstacles with innovative thinking and a tireless work ethic, and they have left an indelible mark on US Army history.”

The Punishers were one of the last three U.S. military aviation assets to depart Iraq. They flew more that 16,500 combat flight hours during more than 1,800 combat missions while performing split-based operations from seven different locations. The battalion executed an average of 15 missions per day and flew more than 30,000 passengers, and they planned and executed multiple direct action air assault missions that were instrumental in reducing the number of attacks on United States forces.

The battalion had no Soldiers killed in action or seriously wounded in action.

They conducted effective and responsive air assault and air movement aviation operations in order to provide freedom of movement for ground commanders throughout Iraq, interdict weapons smuggling operations and facilitate security operations and sustainment efforts for United States forces.

The battalion’s forward support company provided Forward Arming and Refueling Point support to the battalion’s aircraft, as well as multiple other aircraft from a myriad of units.  Typically fueling more than forty aircraft per day, they issued more than a million gallons of aircraft fuel during the combat deployment.

While headquartered in Sandston, the battalion is made up of Soldiers from all over the state. Approximately 110 Soldiers are from the Richmond and Petersburg area, about 50 are from the Hampton Roads area, approximately 15 are from the Charlottesville and Central Virginia area, about 25 are from the Northern Virginia area, approximately 15 are from the Fredericksburg and Stafford County area and the other Soldiers are from various locations across the state. Approximately 75 are from the Maryland National Guard. Their medical evacuation company was from the Florida and Georgia Army National Guard.

The battalion last mobilized for federal active duty in Iraq from January 2006 to February 2007. 

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