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NEWS | May 28, 2016

Departure ceremony sends off Sandston-based aviation units

By Cotton Puryear | Virginia National Guard Public Affairs

A departure ceremony for two Virginia National Guard Sandston-based aviation units held May 27, 2016, marked the start of their federal active duty mission. Senior leaders from state government and the Virginia National Guard joined family members, friends and fellow Soldiers in bidding farewell to the Soldiers. Approximately 40 Soldiers each assigned to Company A, 2nd Battalion, 224th Aviation Regiment, and Detachment 2, Company B, 777th Aviation Support Battalion, are scheduled to begin serving on federal active duty in early June 2016. The units will be based in Kuwait and provide rotary wing aviation and aviation maintenance support to the U. S. Central Command area of operations.

Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, Virginia Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran, Deputy Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Curtis Brown, Maj. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia, and Col. William Zana, commander of the 91st Troop Command, were on hand to shake hands with Soldiers and thank them and their families for the service and sacrifice.

“First and foremost I want to say thank you to all of you for your service to our commonwealth and nation,” McAuliffe said. “You have responded every time I requested your assistance for state emergencies, and now you are going off to protect our nation.”

Soldiers assigned to Company A are expected to conduct their normal missions while deployed including troop air assault and air movement, casualty evacuation, aerial re-supply and supporting other requested aviation missions. The Soldiers of Company A last served on federal active duty in Iraq from April to December 2011 with the rest of 2nd Battalion, 224th Aviation Regiment. The battalion was one of the last three U.S. military aviation assets to depart Iraq.

Soldiers assigned to Detachment 2 are expected to provide aviation maintenance support to units in the area of operations. The detachment last mobilized for federal active duty in Kosovo as part of the NATO Kosovo Force 12 from August 2009 to August 2010.

“Having just taken command in the last week, I have only had a limited period of working with these specific Soldiers, however I have worked with 2-224th Aviation over the past decade in training, state support missions and combat operations overseas, they have my unwavering trust and respect,” Zana said. “These Soldiers and this unit are known across the Army as a unit of great excellence. This is the battalion’s fourth deployment since 9-11, and they are experience professionals. I want to express my personal thanks and admiration with great humility to these awesome Soldiers, but I also want to thank their families and employers for their continued support and sacrifice. None of us could do what is asked of us without your continuing support.”

After the departure ceremony, the two units will report to Texas for approximately 30 to 45 days of additional mobilization training before heading to Kuwait.

Soldiers conducted training at Fort Pickett for about three weeks to accomplish a number of administrative and field training tasks to prepare for the mobilization including weapons qualification, first aid, individual movement techniques, improved explosive devise defeat techniques, equipment issue and medical evaluation.

Virginia’s aviators have deployed overseas in support of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm in Kuwait and Iraq, Operation New Horizons in Bolivia, Operation Joint Forge in the Balkans, Operation Iraqi Freedom in Kuwait and Iraq, Kosovo Force 12 in Kosovo, Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, Operation New Dawn in Iraq and most recently in Operation New Horizons in Guatemala. During their six overseas deployments since Sept. 11, 2001, Virginia’s Army aviators have flown more than 41,000 flight hours, with more than 35,000 hours in combat.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, more than 15,000 Virginia National Guard Soldiers and Airmen have mobilized on federal active duty for homeland security missions and combat operations, sustainment support and peacekeeping in Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosovo and other locations around the world.

The pace of federal mobilizations for the Virginia National Guard shows no sign of slowing down. Approximately 1,450 Virginia National Guard Soldiers and Airmen will start, continue or complete a federal mobilization in 2016 in places like Kuwait, Qatar, Jordan and Cuba.

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