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Guard unit recognized before Iraq deployment includes Dixon man
Guard unit recognized before Iraq deployment includes Dixon man

Missouri National Guard Spc. Steven Brown, of Dixon, hugs a supporter in a receiving line after Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3-135th Theater Aviation Battalion's departure ceremony.
DIXON, Mo. (April 16, 2010) — More than 200 friends, family members and fellow Missouri National Guardsmen turned out Friday morning for a departure ceremony for 11 soldiers from Headquarters and Headquarters Company of the 3-135th Theater Aviation Battalion at the Blue Moon Theater in Lebanon.

Brig. Gen. Stephen Danner, the Missouri Guard’s adjutant general, said he was confident in the Lebanon unit’s ability to exceed its mission expectations.

“These soldiers are the best-educated, most well-trained, and best-equipped combat force the world has ever seen,” Danner said. “These are your sons, brothers, nephews and friends. Many of these soldiers have had more than one deployment. I know they are eager to get out the door and get started on this mission, so they can get back to us safely.”

As part of the ceremony, Spc. Steven Brown, who lives in Dixon, was presented an American flag by Hollie Elliott, who was at the ceremony representing U.S. Senator Christopher ‘Kit’ Bond, because at 20 years old, he holds the status of being the deployment’s youngest soldier. Staff Sgt. Craig Rennick, 38, who lives in Hallsville, received a similar flag from Danner as the deployment’s oldest soldier.

Brown said he’s ready to get the deployment started.

“I expect the deployment to go really well,” he said. “It will be challenging, but we’ll do our job and get it done.”

Brown anticipates the separation from his family to be the hardest part of the deployment.

“But this display of support at the ceremony makes be feel real good that we are appreciated for what we do,” Brown said. “It’s a hard job, but somebody has got to do it.”

Danner stressed that while the soldiers in the unit are now part of the active-duty Army, their Guard brethren at home will be available to support their families.

“Families, let me assure you that while your soldiers are deployed with the active component, we will still take care of them at home,” Danner said. “We will be here to ensure that through the Family Readiness Group and other services that we can provide. We’ll be here to take care of you, the family members, too.”

Danner also read a letter from Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, who was unable to attend the event.

“On behalf of the people of Missouri, I wish you a safe and successful mission,” Nixon wrote. “The citizen-soldiers of Missouri have long served our state and our country with distinction and honor in places of conflict and turmoil across the world. I know you will continue this noble tradition, just as you did in your previous deployment to Balad.”

The unit is slated to deploy for about a year to Joint Base Balad, Iraq, in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

During the ceremony, government officials from the state, county and city level showed their appreciation for the unit, its soldiers and its mission.

“I think it’s great to see all these people come out and show their support for their family members and Missouri National Guardsmen who are deploying,” said Staff Sgt. Landon Hall, who lives in Lebanon. “It was great for us.”

Hall, a 2003 graduate of Lebanon High School, is the senior noncommissioned officer of the unit and hopes for a relatively uneventful deployment.

“I want the next year of this mission to go smoothly and have no incidents or accidents,” Hall said. “I want it to be a great experience for every single one of us.”

The mission of the unit is to provide command and control, supervision, staff planning and unit level personnel service and logistical support for all units that belong to or are attached to the theater aviation battalion. Initially the unit will be divided into two groups that will work 12-hour shifts. Capt. Seth Everett, the company commander, said as the unit becomes more proficient in its mission, the shifts will be reduced to eight hours.

As part of its daily mission, the unit will perform command and control for 11 C-23 Sherpas, four C-12 Hurons and one UC-35 Cessna Citation. Through the use of these fixed-wing aircraft, the unit will provide a forward deployed aviation battalion, which provides air movement of cargo, personnel, and military/civilian dignitaries from the United States, NATO, and Iraq, throughout Iraq and the Central Command Area.

These Guardsmen also will be responsible for the flight following, air tasking orders, mission scheduling, and diplomatic flight clearances for all aircraft assigned to the battalion.

The unit’s company commander, Capt. Seth Everett, who lives in south St. Louis County, also received an Army Commendation Medal at the ceremony.

“It’s nice to be recognized for the service,” Everett said. “It’s a nice way to get the deployment started.”

Other members of the unit live in Eldon, Versailles, Linn Creek, Mountain Grove, Liberal, Dexter, and Jefferson City.

After the ceremony, the soldiers and their families had a reception lunch back at the unit’s armory. Later on Saturday, the soldiers are scheduled to fly out of Floyd W. Jones Airport on military aircraft to Fort Benning, Ga., where they will spend about a week going through the Combat Readiness Center before they depart for Iraq.

The unit previously deployed to Balad in 2005. There, it provided theater airlift support throughout the entire Central Command area of operations which includes Iraq, Qatar, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Europe and 21 other countries in Africa.

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