March 4, 2011

Aviation battalion conducts send-off before deployment to Iraq

From Staff Reports

SANDSTON, Va. — The “Punishers” of the Sandston-based 2nd Battalion, 224th Aviation Regiment conducted a departure ceremony Feb. 25 at the Army Aviation Support Facility in Sandston to bid farewell to the mobilizing Soldiers and to mark the official start of the unit's federal active duty service in Iraq.

 

The first wave of helicopter crews from the Virginia National Guard's 2nd Battalion, 224th Aviation Regiment departed the Army Aviation Support Facility in Sandston Feb. 26 to begin moving their helicopters to Fort Hood, Texas. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew H. Owen, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

Click HERE to see more photos from the event on the Virginia National Guard Flickr site.

The approximately 400 Soldiers of the battalion said good-bye to their families and loved ones and departed for Fort Hood, Texas Feb. 26 to conduct mobilization training for approximately one to two months before deploying overseas. Helicopter crews departed Sandston Feb. 26 and 27 to fly their helicopters to Fort Hood. Once they arrive in Iraq, they will conduct their normal missions including troop air assault and air movement, casualty evacuation, aerial re-supply and any other requested aviation missions.

“We leave Virginia to do our duty, to honor those who have gone before us, and to further the ‘Punisher’ legacy for those who will follow,” said Lt. Col. Neal Edmonds, commander of the assault battalion.

It was an emotional moment for the wives, children, husbands, family members and employers of the Soldiers deploying from the Virginia unit, which traces its lineage to the Civil War, as they said good-bye.

"We are so proud of our Virginia National Guard and the citizen Soldiers who serve, and the families of the Guard," said Marla Graff Decker, Virginia's secretary of public safety.

"The Guard cannot do its job without the families. Without you, without your support, they couldn't do the very important job they're about to do."

Edmonds echoed the secretary’s sentiments when addressing the families and friends of the warriors of the 2nd Battalion.

“Family and friends of the ‘Punishers,’ although I know you would not have missed this ceremony for the world, I still want to thank each and every one of you for being here,” said Edmonds.  “More importantly, I thank you for your service to this country and the sacrifices you must involuntarily make over the coming year for your Soldier’s chosen profession.

“Your Soldier is grateful, your country is grateful, and I am grateful.”

 

Staff Sgt. Wes Green and his son spend some quality time together at the departure ceremony for the Virginia National Guard's Sandston-based 2nd Battalion, 224th Aviation Regiment held Feb. 25, 2011 at the Army Aviation Support Facility in Sandston. The ceremony marks the official start of the unit's federal active duty service in Iraq. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew H. Owen, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

Click HERE to see more photos from the event on the Virginia National Guard Flickr site.

The battalion is organized into three flight companies with a total of 30 Black Hawk helicopters along with a maintenance company, headquarters company and forward support company. Of the 400 Soldiers mobilizing, approximately 75 are from the Maryland National Guard's Company C, and small detachments from Companies D and E, as well as the headquarters company of 2nd Battalion, 224th Aviation Regiment.

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

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.

The mobilization orders call for an active duty period not to exceed 400 days, but the Secretary of Defense can extend tours for operational needs not to exceed 24 months or 730 days.

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