News: Guard Aviation Soldiers Return to N.D. after Serving in Iraq
BISMARCK, N.D. - After a year of serving in Iraq and completing thousands of flight hours, forty-five soldiers of the North Dakota National Guard's Bismarck based Company C, 2nd Battalion, 285th Aviation Regiment are back in North Dakota.
Over 200 family members and friends welcomed them home shortly after 2 p.m., when their charter flight arrived at the Bismarck Airport's main terminal. Two of the soldiers live out of state and traveled separately to Minnesota. The 47 soldiers have been on active duty since last October and served in Iraq since December.
"These aviation soldiers have done an outstanding job serving in Iraq and have proudly represented our state and nation," said Gov. John Hoeven who was on hand to greet the soldiers. "Today, we welcome them home with our heartfelt gratitude for their service and sacrifice, and we thank their families who also served their country throughout this deployment."
Before returning home, the soldiers arrived at Fort Sill, Okla., last Wednesday to complete their demobilization process. Maj. Gen. David Sprynczynatyk, North Dakota adjutant general, and other senior leaders traveled to Oklahoma to welcome the Soldiers home, and they also greeted the soldiers upon their arrival in Bismarck.
"These soldiers have been away from their families, friends and communities, performing outstanding aviation tasks throughout Iraq for a year," Sprynczynatyk said. "They highly commended for their professionalism by their command. I am proud of all they have accomplished during this deployment and happy to be among the family and friends welcoming them home."
The unit flew more than 750 combat missions totaling more than 6,200 flight hours. Assigned to the 1st Infantry Division, they were responsible for transporting senior officials, soldiers, medical supplies and other cargo in Iraq. The unit is commanded by Capt. Douglas Larsen, of Granville, N.D. The senior enlisted soldier is 1st Sgt. Daniel Marquart, of Bismarck.
The typical aviator averages 100-125 flight hours and the typical crew chief averages 75-100 flight hours per year in North Dakota. On the average, the flight crews are getting 350-500 flight hours on this deployment. That equals roughly four years worth of experience for a typical pilot and roughly five years worth of experience for a crew chief as compared to typical home station flight time. The enlisted members have also gained many years worth of valuable maintenance experience.
"The experience gained in Iraq will definitely improve the North Dakota Army National Guard aviation program. Put it all together and we will have strong, knowledgeable, and experienced crews available for any future homeland defense or state emergency missions," Larsen said.
Company C is comprised of 10 Blackhawk helicopters and assigned crews of which North Dakota has five, with the other half comprised of soldiers from the Utah Army National Guard. The unit consists of pilots, crew chiefs, door gunners, mechanics, fuelers and flight operations personnel.