Kentucky Guardsmen deploy to Middle East

Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs Staff Report

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Maj. Chip St. Charles speaks to friends and family of Bravo Company, 351st Aviation Support Battalion during a departure ceremony in Frankfort, Ky., Feb. 16, 2015. The Guardsmen will deploy to the Middle East in support of Operation Spartan Shield. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond)

FRANKFORT, Ky. — The Kentucky National Guard command staff honored the members of Bravo Company, 351st Aviation Support Battalion in a departure ceremony, Feb. 16.

Despite inclement weather, a large crowd of family members and friends gathered to say their last farewell.

Click here for more photos of this event.

During their deployment to the Middle East the aviation soldiers of Bravo Co. will provide aviation maintenance support to a variety of Army aircraft throughout the theater of operation for Operation Spartan Shield.  They will first go to Fort Hood, Texas for pre-deployment training before heading overseas.

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A Soldier with Bravo Company, 351st Aviation Support Battalion enjoys a family portrait during a departure ceremony in Frankfort, Ky., Feb. 16, 2015. The unit will support military operations in the Middle East for roughly one year. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond)

Kentucky’s Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. Edward W. Tonini presided over the event. Tonini spoke of the unit’s readiness and the support the family members at home will receive.

“Maj. (Chip) St. Charles has prepared his Soldiers superbly, they’re ready to do this mission and ready to respond to whatever the circumstances might be overseas,” said Tonini. “For the families, our family support structure that has been honed over the past 12 years, and if you stay in communication, your needs will be met. We need to make sure you are part of our family.”

Col. Michael Stephens, commander of the 63rd Theater Aviation Brigade reminded each Soldier and family member that they are important and matter to the mission and to the organization. In describing the unit’s task, Stephens said Bravo Co. would be among the only aviation mechanics in the theater and will be vital to military operations.

“I want everyone of you Soldiers who fix these aircraft to be proud. Pilots wave their hands and get a lot of attention, but without the mechanics and crew chiefs, none of these aircraft will fly, said Stephens. “I’m proud of you for standing up and making a difference for our country.”

This is not the first deployment for the troops of the 351st, having deployed to the Middle East in 2006-2007.  The unit has also served during several natural disaster missions to include Hurricane Ike wind storm in 2008 and the Winter Storm of 2009.  During these extreme weather conditions, the soldiers deployed across the commonwealth providing generators, door to door health and welfare checks, traffic control, and debris removal.

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