News: Family, friends bid farewell, godspeed at sendoff ceremony for aviation soldiers
BISMARCK, N.D. - Family, friends and elected and military leaders gathered at the Army Aviation Support Facility in Bismarck, N.D., for a sendoff ceremony to honor eight North Dakota Army National Guard soldiers before the soldiers begin a yearlong mission in Afghanistan. The aviation soldiers of the Bismarck-based Detachment 42 (Det. 42), Operational Airlift Support (OSA), are deploying in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
Gov. Jack Dalrymple and Maj. Gen. David Sprynczynatyk, North Dakota adjutant general, along with other elected and military leaders joined the ceremony to voice support for the soldiers and their families, as they prepare to spend up to a year apart.
"The soldiers of Det. 42 are embarking on an important mission in Afghanistan and have prepared extensively for this yearlong service," said Gov. Jack Dalrymple. "With their highly specialized skills and expertise, they are well suited for this mission and will carry on the North Dakota National Guard's proud record of distinguished service. We are proud of these Guardsmen and grateful to them and their families for their willingness to serve on our behalf."
The small but highly specialized aviation unit will be flying King Air 300 aircraft equipped with Medium Altitude Reconnaissance Surveillance System (MARSS) platforms. Their mission is to provide aerial surveillance functions for units on the ground.
"Our aviators are extremely competent, well-trained soldiers who take each and every mission they receive seriously," said Sprynczynatyk. "Their track record of achievement and their dedication to service suggests they will have a positive impact on operations in Afghanistan through their aviation and aerial surveillance efforts. We wish them a safe, successful deployment and a quick return."
Sen. Heidi Heitkamp and Congressman Kevin Cramer also spoke at the sendoff. They expressed confidence in the soldiers of Det. 42 and thanked the soldiers and their families for making such incredible sacrifices.
Under the leadership of Chief Warrant Officer 4 Travis R. Bridwell, of Bismarck, N.D., unit commander, and 1st Sgt. Russell K. Garrett, of Pick City, N.D., senior noncommissioned officer for the deployment, the soldiers will join fixed wing detachments from Maine, Arkansas, Utah, New Mexico and Puerto Rico to make up Task Force ODIN. ODIN stands for Observe, Detect, Identify, Neutralize.
In addition to the wealth of training the aviation soldiers conduct on a regular basis, the unit will receive in-depth training at the mobilization station in Camp Atterbury, Ind., on detention facility operations as well as extensive on-the-job training with the unit it will replace upon its arrival in Afghanistan.
The unit, which provides fixed-wing airlift transport of personnel and cargo, has already deployed twice in support of the Global War on Terrorism. Three of the soldiers, all Chief Warrant Officers 4s, Mark Schlafman, and brothers Travis and Tyler Bridwell served together with the same unit in Djibouti from April 2009 to February 2010. The unit was also deployed to Afghanistan from September 2004 to March 2005.