Jacksonville aviators depart for Iraq missions
By Master Sgt. Thomas Kielbasa and Sgt. 1st Class Blair Heusdens
Florida National Guard Public Affairs
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (Aug. 29, 2011) – More than 300 Florida National Guard aviators are saying goodbye to their families and preparing for a year-long deployment in support of missions in Iraq.
Members of Detachment 1, Company B, 1204th Aviation Regiment, and 1st Battalion, 111th Aviation Regiment, depart this week for additional training in Fort Hood, Texas, before they deploy to Iraq for Operation New Dawn. The units were honored separately by friends, family and community leaders during two departure ceremonies at the Florida Army National Guard’s aviation support facility at Cecil Commerce Center on Aug. 25 and Aug. 29.
The Soldiers will provide aerial support throughout Iraq during their deployments.
“You know your mission; you have prepared for it well and you will now perform that mission a long way from home,” Adjutant General of Florida Maj. Gen. Emmett Titshaw said during the ceremony on Aug. 29. “…I know that you are ready.”
The general noted that this deployment marked a milestone for the Florida National Guard: the organization surpassed more than 15,000 Guardsmen who have mobilized for ongoing federal missions since Sept. 11, 2001. Those Soldiers have served in a variety of roles in the U.S. and overseas in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom, New Dawn, Enduring Freedom and Noble Eagle, and other contingency operations.
“We as Florida National Guardsmen fight and win our nation’s wars with an unyielding commitment,” he said. “We provide safety and security to the citizens of Florida like no other institution.”
Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown, who also spoke at the Aug. 29 event, told the Soldiers he was confident they would not only perform their missions well, but would be good representatives of Jacksonville during the deployment.
“You look good, you look fit, and you’re going to do us all proud,” the mayor said.
On Aug. 25, Commander of Detachment 1, Company B, 1204th Aviation Regiment, Capt. Peter Jennison assured the families of his Soldiers that he would be keeping the safety of his unit foremost in his mind during the mission.
“My most important mission is to do everything within my power to ensure that these men and women get down range and back (safely),” he said. “And I give my word to the parents, spouses and children of these Soldiers that I have done and will continue to do everything I possibly can to make that happen. I assure you that mine will be the first boot in the sand, and the last to leave it.”
More than 60 Soldiers from Detachment 1, Company B, 1204th Aviation Regiment, and more than 240 Soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 111th Aviation Regiment, are deploying for Operation New Dawn.