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Army Announces 800-Soldier Aviation Unit to Deploy to Afghanistan

Soldiers of Company C, 2nd General Support Aviation Battalion, 1st Aviation Regiment, 1st Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, sing the “Big Red One” song during a deployment ceremony at Fort Riley July 13. (Sgt. Jarrett Allen)
Soldiers of Company C, 2nd General Support Aviation Battalion, 1st Aviation Regiment, 1st Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, sing the “Big Red One” song during a deployment ceremony at Fort Riley July 13. (Sgt. Jarrett Allen)

The U.S. Army has announced an 800-soldier aviation unit will deploy later this summer to Afghanistan.

The service on Tuesday said soldiers from the 1st Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, at Fort Riley, Kansas, will head overseas sometime after this month and before October, along with aircraft including AH-64 Apache attack helicopters and UH-60 Black Hawk utility choppers.

The deployment is part of a regular rotation of forces to the country in support of Operation Freedom's Sentinel, the name of the U.S. counter-terrorism operation against the remnants of al-Qaida, an emerging offshoot of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, and other terror groups.

Maj. Gen. Wayne W. Grigsby Jr., the commanding general of the 1st Infantry Division, said the unit is ready for the mission.

"The Demon brigade has trained long and hard for this important mission, and the men and women of this great unit are prepared and ready," he said in the release. "I am extremely confident in this team and know they will be value added to the force in support of Operation Freedom's Sentinel."

President Barack Obama earlier this month announced a change in plans for U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan when he said 8,400 American service members would stay in the country into next year, leaving it up to his potential successor Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton to decide on the size of the military footprint there.

The president initially planned to reduce the U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan to 5,500 before he left office but changed course after a recommendation from Army Gen. John Nicholson, the top U.S. commander in country. The current authorized level of U.S. troops in Afghanistan through the rest of the year stands at 9,800.

The U.S. troops are split between two missions that will continue -- NATO's Resolute Support mission to advise Afghan security forces and the separate Freedom's Sentinel.

-- Richard Sisk contributed to this report.

-- Brendan McGarry can be reached at brendan.mcgarry@military.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Brendan_McGarry.

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