May 20, 2009

Virginia Aviators team together for deployment to Afghanistan

By Capt. Matt Nowak
Virginia Army Guard Public Affairs

SANDSTON, Va — Seventeen Soldiers from the Virginia National Guard’s Sandston-based Detachment 26 Operational Support Airlift Command are mobilizing to provide C-12 aviation support in Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.


Brig. Gen. Stephen Huxtable, Assistant Adjutant General of Virginia - Army, speaks to Virginia soldiers about their upcoming deployment to  Afghanistan. Huxtable gave words of encouragement and Virginia’s commitment to supporting the Soldiers during their mobilization. (Photo by Capt. Matt Nowak, Virginia Army National Guard Public Affairs)

Enlisted personnel will perform administrative and operational support for the fix-wing detachment. Pilots will fly a C-12 twin turboprop, pressurized passenger and cargo aircraft. Crews will provide direct support to ground troops.

The C-12 aircraft are used in Iraq and Afghanistan for general transport of personnel and equipment. The aircraft can be configured for different missions including high priority resupply, movement of key personnel, courier flights, medical evacuation and patient transport.

Training for the mission placed a heavy emphasis on teamwork. “Working as a crew is all about teamwork,” Maj. John Baynham, the company commander, stressed.  “Moral is very high because aviators love to fly.”

“We are all excited and looking forward to do our mission and do our part,” Sgt. 1st Class Paula Betz, a platoon sergeant explained. “The group has really meshed well.”

Soldiers will receive flight pay as part of their compensation in working in the C-12 aircraft. If they haven’t already, Soldiers will also get their flight wings pinned on them only after accumulating forty hours of flight time.

Virginia Soldiers will make up a significant portion of the unit. However, Soldiers from nine different states are also included in the unit.

In an informal departure ceremony, Soldiers huddled around Brig. Gen Stephen Huxtable, Virginia’s Assistant Adjutant General for the Army, as he offered words of encouragement and Virginia’s support for their mission.

“Great pilots and great crews take care of each other. I know you’re all going to do a heck of a job,” exclaimed Huxtable.

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