July 13, 2002, 18:47 EDT

Aviation unit holds family day after return from Bosnia

by Maj. Cotton Puryear
Virginia National Guard Deputy Public Affairs Officer

Virginia Director of Public Safety John Marshall addresses soldiers and families during the unit's family day. (Photo by Maj. Cotton Puryear, Virginia National Guard Public Affairs Office)

VARINA, Va. - The soldiers and families of the 2nd Battalion, 224th Aviation Brigade gathered together for their annual family day picnic today and celebrated the unit’s recent return from a successful deployment to Bosnia. The unit’s performance received high accolades from Virginia Director of Public Safety John Marshall who said, “The soldiers of the 2nd Battalion, 224th Aviation brought the motto ‘Always Ready, Always There’ to life with your performance in Bosnia.”

Marshall was speaking at the family day on behalf of Virginia Governor Mark Warner. Marshall read a letter from Warner, and in that letter Warner said, “Your professionalism, dedication and courage have assured peace in that war-torn part of the world. You are a testament to what is best about America. Each of you is an American hero.”

Warner’s letter went on to recognize the critical important role of the families and employer’s of the deployed soldiers, saying that families were the “foundation” that made it possible for soldiers to accomplish their mission, and the sacrifice of the employers made them “patriots just as our soldiers are”.

A family member and possible future aviator enjoys the static display that was part of the family day event. (Photo by Maj. Cotton Puryear, Virginia National Guard Public Affairs Office)

The soldiers of the 2-224th deployed as the highest-ranking aviation unit in support of SFOR 12. Organized as Task Force Pegasus, the unit was made up of 376 soldiers and 34 helicopters. Task Force Pegasus flew over 6,000 hours in theatre and integrated with British, Canadian, Portuguese, Russian, French and Italian ground forces on numerous occasions, performing static load training, recon and survey missions and air assault operations.

Brig. Gen. J. W. Godwin, the assistant adjutant general of the Virginia National Guard, stressed the importance of families in the Guard. “We believe that we enlist soldiers, but we retain families,” he said. “It is the family that holds it all together.”

Even though this unit has returned from a long deployment, Godwin pointed out that the Virginia Guard still has soldiers in Afghanistan, and has units identified for future deployments to Bosnia. In addition, Virginia Guard units have been mobilized for homeland security mission. Godwin said at one point while the unit was deployed, 15 percent of the Guard was on duty, and it is now about 20 to 25 percent.

Marshall also pointed out that while soldiers were deployed to Bosnia, those soldiers still in Virginia played an important role as well. The unit organized Task Force Olympus to provided emergency service disaster relief during flooding in West Virginia and fires in Virginia, as well as mission support for Operation Noble Eagle. Even with these missions and a majority of the aircraft maintainers overseas, the unit still exceeded Army standards for operational readiness.

“When you are out there in uniform,” Marshall said, “too often what you do is not recognized.” On behalf of Gov. Warner and the citizens of Virginia, Marshall extended a sincere “thank you” to all the soldiers and their families.

“Thank you for what you have given,” he said, “thank you for what you continue to give and thank you for what you will give in the future.”

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