Aug. 14, 2009

Sandston-based National Guard aviation maintenance unit bound for Kosovo

By Maj. Cotton Puryear
Virginia Guard Public Affairs

SANDSTON, Va. — The Virginia National Guard’s Sandston-based Detachment 2, Company B, 777th Aviation Support Battalion conducted at departure ceremony Aug. 9 at the Army Aviation Support Facility in Sandston. The ceremony marked the official start of the unit’s federal active duty service to support the peacekeeping duty mission of the NATO Kosovo Force 12 rotation as an aviation maintenance unit.


A Soldier from Detachment 2, Company B, 777th Aviation Support Battalion poses for a photo after the departure ceremony Aug. 9. (Photo by Maj. Cotton Puryear, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

Approximately 20 Soldiers mobilized with the detachment, and they are scheduled to train at Camp Atterbury, Ind., and in Germany for about two months before deploying to Kosovo, and the mobilization is scheduled to last 12 months.

“What a great opportunity it is to be able to deploy and stand for freedom, not only as we serve the commonwealth but also our nation as we stand for peace globally,” said Lt. Col. James Ring, commander of the 2nd Battalion, 224th Aviation Battalion. “The mission you are going on is a very important one. For those of you that have not been to Balkans before, you as Soldiers we have the privilege standing for peace and stability in a far away land.”

The helicopters in Kosovo provide a valuable support to the peacekeeping mission, and the Soldiers from the detachment will be in the lead for aviation sustainment, Ring said. “The work you will be doing will make a direct impact on the ability of the command to support stability for Balkans,” he said. He also added that the Soldiers will have a unique opportunity to see first hand how the United States works with NATO partners in conducting peace and stability operations.

While headquartered in Sandston, the Soldiers from the unit come from all over the state including three from the Richmond area, three from Central Virginia, six from Northern Virginia and six from the Hampton Roads area.

This will be the first deployment for the Detachment, said Capt. Michael H. Gregory, the detachment commander. “The 777th ASB just received its federal recognition earlier this year, so this will be a milestone to place in the historical binder for the unit,” Gregory said.  

The unit will deploy to Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo and join with Kentucky and South Carolina to form the full aviation unit maintenance company that will support Task Force Mongrel, the aviation task force for KFOR 12.

Gregory said the unit will be responsible for conducting aviation maintenance for the aviation task force’s 12 UH-60 A/L Blackhawk helicopters.

“The UH-60 L models will serve the function of air assault operations and the UH-60 A models will serve the purpose of medical evacuation,” Gregory said.  “Without these aircraft being fully mission capable, US troops will be unable to be transported to different regions in Kosovo if called upon.”

The North Dakota Army National Guard will lead a NATO multi-national force bound for Kosovo. About 700 N.D. Guard Soldiers will be deploying as part of the NATO peace keeping Kosovo Force, or KFOR-12. The number ’12’ represents the twelfth rotation of U.S. forces in support of this mission. This is the largest single mobilization for the N.D. National Guard since the Korean War.

Kosovo is divided into five NATO areas of responsibility. U.S. is responsible for the Multi-National Task Force East region, and is also known as Task Force Falcon. Task Force Falcon serves as the American-led component of NATO's Kosovo Force.

The UN Security Council passed UN Security Council Resolution 1244 on June 10, 1999, which placed Kosovo under transitional UN administration and authorized KFOR, the NATO-led peacekeeping force. Resolution 1244 provided that Kosovo would have autonomy within the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, and affirmed the territorial integrity of Yugoslavia, which has been legally succeeded by the Republic of Serbia.

Kosovo declared independence Feb. 17, 2008, though the international community is still split. While the United States and many European countries have recognized Kosovo independence, only 55 of the 192 United Nation members have recognized Kosovo as of February 2009.

The N.D. Kosovo effort is divided into two components, which will combine with other state National Guard and U.S. Army Reserve units and the armies of several foreign countries to form KFOR-12. When in place, KFOR-12 will be comprised of about 2,200 U.S. and foreign Soldiers.

Task Force Falcon-KFOR-12 forces will be commanded by Brig. Gen. Alan Dohrmann, of Bismarck, ND, and the senior enlisted Soldier is Command Sgt. Maj Jack Cripe of Dickinson, N.D.

Soldiers from Armenia, Greece, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, and Ukraine will round out the total U.S. led task force.

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