CLAY NATIONAL GUARD CENTER, Marietta, Ga., Feb. 3, 2011 – Detachment 1, Company C, 1-111th General Support Aviation Battalion said its farewells to more than 200 family members, friends and fellow Soldiers in a ceremony held here at Army Aviation Flight Facility No. 2 across the flight line on Dobbins Air Reserve Base.
Captain Will Cox, the unit commander, more than 60 pilots and support personnel, Sgt. 1st Class Vincenzo Battaglia – the unit’s first sergeant – and six of the unit’s MEDEVAC UH-60M Black Hawk Helicopters left for Fort Hood, Texas, two days later. After two months of extensive training there, the unit will move on to Tallil Air Base.
Once its Black Hawks have arrived, the unit will begin its yearlong mission of providing MEDEVAC support as part of the active Army’s 40th and 29th Combat Aviation brigades to coalition forces now involved in Operation New Dawn in Iraq.
“When the National Guard Bureau asked us to deploy six months early, we hadn’t had our aircraft more than a year, and were short pilots, flight medics and crew chiefs,” Cox said.
Even when the unit finally did receive the people it needed, many of them needed training to fly and repair the UH60M, he adds. Even those coming on as medics needed additional schooling to properly care for the patients the flight crews would be picking up.
“The bureau knew it would be a challenge to make it all happen, but it also knows Georgia has a track record of meeting challenges and succeeding,” Cox continued. “People, from the top down, worked late hours and gave everything they had to helping us move to a ready status and getting us on the road to Iraq. There’s no way we can ever really thank them for the sacrifice they made – for the support they gave to bring us to this point.”
Among those who said farewell to the 111th were former Gov. Roy Barnes; State Sen. John Albers (Dist. 56); Maj. Gen. Maria L. Britt, Georgia Army Guard Commander; and Col. Brent Bracewell, who commands 78th Aviation Troop Command – the parent headquarters of Detachment 1, Company C, 1-111th.
In an earlier statement regarding the loss of not just the 111th but also the 171st Aviation (which is also based at Dobbins and deploying at the same time), Bracewell said operations would be affected, but not so badly that Georgia could not carry out its support to civil authority mission. “Help, when needed,” he said, “will be found in the surrounding states, but until then, Georgia’s three new UH72A Lakota helicopters will be used as a replacement for the Black Hawks.”
78th Aviation Troop Command hopes to add a fourth Lakota to its inventory later this year.
As Cox and the 1-111th prepared for its departure from Dobbins, Barnes lauded the Soldiers’ choice to serve their country’s cause.
"You go because you represent the best of America, and you want to show the world that we will never shrink from our responsibility to carry the torch of freedom and liberty around the world," Barnes said. “We hope and pray that we can repay the debt we owe you for the sacrifices you and you’re your loved ones make. And with that, we send you off now with never-ending support - for you and your mission – and our prayers that you all will safely come home again.”
Story and photos by Sgt. 1st Class Roy Henry
Public Affair Office
Georgia Department of Defense
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