FORT RILEY, Kan. (WIBW) -- Soldiers with the 1st Infantry Division’s Combat Aviation Brigade are deploying to Afghanistan in the middle of the fighting season and during some of the hottest temperatures but they’re trained, equipped and ready.
The troops are getting ready take to the skies to support our troops on the ground, providing security, intelligence and reconnaissance during a nine month deployment. The brigade's 2,200 members have been deploying in different groups throughout the month of August.
"We’re getting ready to deploy to the southern half of Afghanistan. We’ll be providing aviation support, medical support for soldiers of NATO, the Afghan Security Forces, as well as our soldiers who are also serving in the defense of the ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) mission in Afghanistan," said Colonel Matthew Lewis, Commander of the Combat Aviation Brigade.
Before they left, they squeezed in some family time and as many hugs and kisses with their loved ones as they could. A deployment ceremony was held Thursday for more than 200 departing CAB members. For Sgt. Hector Delacruz, it’s his fourth deployment and his family stays strong by keeping in touch and looking to the future.
"We’ve just been talking about what kinds of stuff we’re going to do once I get back and trying to keep them motivated. Give them an idea of the goal after the deployment and what we’re going to do as a family to keep their mind off of the deployment," he told WIBW, surrounded by his wife and three children.
"The best is communication. If you go, try to stay in touch all the time, as much as you can because that is the key- just try to make them feel like you are still at the house," he added.
Since their return from Iraq about two years ago, the brigade has received and trained on some of the Army’s newest technology and helicopters, including Black Hawks and Chinooks, as well as Unmanned Aerial Devices. It is the most modernized Combat Aviation Brigade in the Army, receiving most of the upgraded equipment before any other unit.
"Over the past year, it’s been both a training effort and a modernization effort so they’re deploying now with the most modern helicopters that the Army has- the Chinooks, the ‘Mike’ model Black Hawks. So we’ve been conducting some normal training and some high altitude training to make sure the soldiers are ready," Col. Lewis said.
"I tried to remind the soldiers today that as sad as it is today, in nine months when they come home, it’ll be the reverse. It’ll be a very happy occasion so focus on the nine months. The communication is important- the little notes that they get from back home mean a lot- and that occasion when we come home will be just as happy," the colonel told 13 News.
The 1st Combat Aviation Brigade from Fort Riley will be replacing the 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade out of Fort Stewart, Georgia.