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Aviation brigade heading to Iraq

TIMES STAFF WRITER
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FORT DRUM — By the end of the month, the whirl of helicopter blades and constant vibration of helicopter engines will be gone from Wheeler-Sack Army Airfield — as will the 2,800 soldiers with the 10th Combat Aviation Brigade.


The soldiers and the helicopters will be in Iraq, stationed under the 25th Infantry Division in Multi-National Division-North.


"They have trained aggressively as a team over the last 16 months. They have flown hundreds of thousands of hours, driven thousands of miles and fired hundreds of thousands of rounds," Col. Erik C. Peterson, brigade commander, said during the deployment ceremony Thursday. "They've worked hard, honed their skills and built the bonds to ensure mission success. They are ready."


The brigade will fly reconnaissance, attack and support missions for units stationed in northern Iraq. The deployment will last 12 months and the brigade will be joined by the newest unit, the 1st Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, an Apache Battalion reassigned to the 10th Mountain Division this summer.


The addition of the Apache Battalion means that the 10th Aviation Brigade has Chinooks, Kiowa Warriors, Black Hawks and Apaches in its mobilized arsenal. The brigade will fly under the code name Task Force Falcon.


The units — the 6th Squadron, 6th Cavalry; the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Battalions, and the 277th Aviation Support Battalion — will deploy over the next month. Once in Iraq, the brigade will add 1,400 soldiers and civilians from other units already deployed. It will have 250 manned and unmanned aircraft at its disposal to use for missions.


The last deployment for the entire brigade was to Afghanistan 16 months ago, and as noted by Staff Sgt. Eric L. Crist, with the 2-10, flying in Iraq will be different and present new challenges.


"Afghanistan is flying in the mountains. Iraq is much closer to the ground," Sgt. Crist said. "The situational awareness is different. They are more organized in how they handle their situations. It definitely will be a challenge for our air crews."


Sgt. Crist said the brigade has spent the past year preparing for those challenges and has had training scenarios that reflect the change in combat situations.


"The environment continues to be one of the great challenges," Col. Peterson said. "It's dusty, it's austere, it's a challenge to fly there."


Col. Peterson and other leaders and soldiers said they are confident the brigade is fully prepared for the deployment because of the intense training and the brigade's dynamic quality.


As always with deploying soldiers, their minds were also on families and how they would fare during the deployment.


"Despite our absence, our families will not be alone," Col. Peterson said. "They will be surrounded by the supportive and enthusiastic members of the finest community in the Army — Fort Drum and our north country neighbors."

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