Wyoming Troops Begin Deployment to Afghanistan


CHEYENNE, Wyo. -- Eighteen soldiers with the Wyoming Army National Guard's most deployed unit since 2001 is headed to the Middle East.

The Guard's C Company, 5th Battalion, 159th Aviation Regiment, left this weekend for a monthlong training mission in Texas before heading off to the Middle East.

The unit based in Cheyenne operates UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters and will provide medical evacuation support for U.S. and coalition troops.

During a ceremony marking its deployment Friday, Wyoming Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Luke Reiner told the group that this is a critical and potentially life-saving mission.

"You provide that safety net that our service members of all branches and our allies rely on," he said. "You provide the speed for the first golden hour, the hour that is key to determining whether a wounded man or woman lives or dies."

Gov. Matt Mead, who also attended the event at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, praised the sacrifice the soldiers are making, the Wyoming Tribune Eagle reported.

"Remember, it is a remarkable thing that these men and women stood up and volunteered, and they volunteered at a time when there is great unrest in the world," he said.

This will be the fifth time the unit has deployed personnel and aircraft in the past 14 years. But it also will be the first time overseas for several members of the unit.

This includes 23-year-old Spc. Sarah Van Horn.

"I'm a little bit excited," she said as she was joined by her mother and brother at Friday's ceremony. "But mostly I'm just anxious to get over there and start doing the work we've prepared for."

Van Horn said she and the other first-timers have gotten a lot of advice and help from some of the others who have done previous deployments. She added the group has trained intensively for their mission.

"That one weekend a month, we always train as if we are doing missions over there in Afghanistan with different medical scenarios," she said. "When it comes to training, we are always right on point and everyone does their job well."

Friday's going-away ceremony was an emotional event as the soldiers hugged, laughed and cried with their family.

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