Florida aviators depart for border security mission

Written by  //  February 23, 2012  //  Feature Stories, News

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (Feb. 23, 2012) – Approximately 20 Soldiers from the Florida National Guard’s Company B, 2nd Battalion, 151st Aviation (Security and Support) are being tasked to provide aerial security at the Nation’s border. Several Soldiers from the unit’s advanced party left Cecil Field today in UH-72A Lakota helicopters bound for Texas. The others will follow in the coming weeks.


Two Florida National Guard UH-72A Lakota helicopters prepare to take off from Cecil Field, Feb. 23, 2012, to provide security to the Nation's border as part of Operation Guardian. Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Blair Heusdens

The aviators will fly security missions in the Rio Grande Valley in support of the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol Air and Marine office as part of Operation Guardian.

The mission will involve four Florida National Guard aircraft – three Lakotas and one OH-58 Kiowa helicopter – and is projected to last until the end of December.

According to the company commander, Maj. Tom Warner, the mission will provide his Soldiers with valuable real world experience in flying, maintenance and refueling over the next several months. The crews will be flying for 8-10 hours each day, he added. “For us, this is as real as it gets.”

Maj. Tom Warner (far right), commander of Company B, 2nd Battalion, 151st Aviation, speaks to his Soldiers prior to departing for a security mission at the Nation's border, Feb. 23, 2012. Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Blair Heusdens

The unit will also use the opportunity to familiarize themselves with several new pieces of equipment that have recently been added to their aircraft, including forward-looking infrared imaging systems that help them track individuals from above 4,000 feet with infrared imaging that allows them to see at night. They also have a downlink capability so others on the ground can see what they are seeing in real time.

“With these tools, we hope to help support the units there,” said Staff Sgt. Mark Rickel, a flight standardization instructor.

The Florida National Guard supported a similar mission is 2005-2006 in support of Operation Jumpstart. The company also went to Haiti last year to provide humanitarian assistance in support of the earthquake recovery efforts.

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