Alpha Company, 2-211th Aviation

Departs for OIF Deployment

 

Written by Maj. Hank McIntire

Published April 11, 2006

 

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Sgt. 1st Class Joel Johnson, Alpha Company, 2-211th Aviation, prepares for departure Mar. 23 as his family looks on.

Photo by Maj. Hank McIntire

Sgt. 1st Class Joel Johnson, Alpha Company, 2-211th

Aviation, prepares for departure Mar. 23 as his family looks on.

WEST JORDAN — “One more time.”

Those words from Chief Warrant Officer Lynn Higgins, a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter pilot and Vietnam veteran, captured the attitude and resolve of the 35 Soldiers of Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 211th Aviation, Utah National Guard, as they departed from Utah Mar. 23 for an 18-month deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

While Soldiers’ families hovered around the helicopters on the tarmac at the West Jordan Army Aviation Support Facility, Alpha Company pilots’ and crew chiefs’ determination was evident in their faces as they completed preparation of their Blackhawks before they could say their final goodbyes to their loved ones.

Unlike most other post-9/11 Utah Guard units who departed the state on buses or commercial aircraft, these Soldiers would be flying themselves to Fort Hood, Texas, for several months of combat training before heading overseas.

At Fort Hood, Alpha Company will be attached to the 2-135th Aviation Battalion, Colorado National Guard, for the duration of their wartime mission of transporting personnel, supplies and equipment in their assigned area of operations.

Capt. Micah Tebbs, commander of Alpha Company, 2-211th, speaks to Soldiers and families Mar. 23 during deployment ceremony.

Photo by Sgt. Kelly Collett

Capt. Micah Tebbs, commander of Alpha Company, 2-211th, speaks

to Soldiers and families Mar. 23 during deployment ceremony.

Lt. Col. Chris Petty, commander of the 2-135th, looks forward to having the Soldiers of Alpha Company as part of his team.

“These Utah guys are a solid outfit with some good experience, good leadership and great attitudes,” Petty said. “It looks like my job is going to be easy. I’m glad to have them on board.”

Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch was also on hand to visit with Soldiers and families and provide them his support and encouragement.

“I have such pride in the greatness of our men and women throughout the military, but our young men who are going today are really the cream of the crop. Thank God for these Soldiers and their willingness to fight for freedom,” Hatch said.

After Soldiers and families gathered in the hangar for a brief farewell ceremony, Chaplain (Maj.) Mark Allison, 211th Aviation Group, offered a prayer and Sen. Hatch and Utah National Guard Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Brian Tarbet gave some remarks.

A young family member with her father, a member of Alpha Company, 2-211th, prior to his departure in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Photo by Sgt. Kelly Collett

A young family member with her father, a member of Alpha Company,

2-211th, prior to his departure in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Capt. Micah Tebbs, Alpha Company commander also spoke to those assembled.

“This is a good group of guys. We’re all going to take care of each other,” said an emotional Tebbs. “I’m honored to be their commander.”

Then Tebbs gave Soldiers a precious few minutes to bid their families and loved ones farewell.

In that tearful, hugging crowd was Col. Higgins, commander of the Utah Guard’s 97th Troop Command. She has attended many sendoffs in her official capacity, but this day she was there as Linda, wife of Chief Higgins and mother of their four children who will do without their husband and father for up to a year and half.

“I’m proud of everybody who puts on the uniform and proud of everyone who supports their Soldier,” she said. It’s different for me to be playing both parts today.”

Soldiers huddle around CW5 Lynn Higgins ,left, for some last-minute safety instructions before departing in their helicopters for Fort Hood.

Photo by Sgt. Kelly Collett

Soldiers huddle around CW5 Lynn Higgins ,left, for some last-minute safety instructions before departing in their helicopters for Fort Hood.

Col. Higgins deployed in 1997 to the Balkans as commander of the 128th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment while Chief Higgins remained at home with their children. And now their roles are reversed.

“When I left our children were much smaller, and now they have a better understanding of why Mom and Dad do what they do. We’re both at the end of our careers and this will likely be our last deployment experience, but it’s still tough to say goodbye,” said Linda.

Husband Lynn agreed that being on the leaving end of a deployment is not the same.

“This is different because I was the one staying behind back then,” he said.

After their goodbyes, Soldiers huddled around Chief Higgins, their flight leader on the trip to Texas, for a safety briefing and some last-minute instructions.

Blackhawk helicopters of Alpha Company, 2-211th, depart West Jordan in formation en route to Fort Hood, Texas, Mar. 23.

Photo by Sgt. Kelly Collett

Blackhawk helicopters of Alpha Company, 2-211th, depart

West Jordan in formation en route to Fort Hood, Texas, Mar. 23.

Soldiers then moved out to the flight line, and families spread out along the yellow stripe on the tarmac a few feet from the hangar that marks off the safe area for observers.

Families clapped, cheered, and waved while the four Blackhawks taxied to the runway as Utah Guard senior leaders stood in formation on the tarmac and saluted the departing aircraft.

Lifting off precisely at 0900 as scheduled with Chief Higgins’ helicopter in the lead, his “One more time.” epigram shows that his and Alpha Soldiers’ focus is simply on another mission to be carried out.

“You expect the worst and hope for the best. You go and do the mission, whatever it is,” Higgins said before departing.

And knowing what the stakes are, wife Linda agrees.

“We owe a debt to those who have gone before us,” she said. “We love our country and we’re grateful that our kids have grown up knowing how important this is.”

A young family member with her father, a member of Alpha Company, 2-211th, prior to his departure in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Photo by Sgt. Kelly Collett

A young family member with her father, a member of Alpha Company,

2-211th, prior to his departure in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Sgt. 1st Class Joel Johnson, Alpha Company, 2-211th, contemplates the mission ahead and challenges he and his family will face.

Photo by Sgt. Kelly Collett

Sgt. 1st Class Joel Johnson, Alpha Company, 2-211th, contemplates the mission ahead and challenges he and his family will face.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Utah National Guard senior leaders salute each Blackhawk helicopter as it taxis toward the runway prior to thier departure for Fort Hood.

Photo by Sgt. Kelly Collett

Utah National Guard senior leaders salute each Blackhawk helicopter

as it taxis toward the runway prior to their departure for Fort Hood.

Families line up on the tarmac to watch the departure of the Soldiers of Alpha Company, 2-211th Aviation, Mar. 23.

Photo by Sgt. Kelly Collett

Families line up on the tarmac to watch the departure of

the Soldiers of Alpha Company, 2-211th Aviation, Mar. 23.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch speaks to assembled Soldiers and families at the Alpha Company, 2-211th Aviation's departure ceremony Mar. 23.

Photo by Sgt. Kelly Collett

Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch speaks to assembled Soldiers and families at

the Alpha Company, 2-211th Aviation's departure ceremony Mar. 23.

An Alpha Company Soldier, left, carries his bags to an awaiting Blackhawk helicopter with some help from his son.

Photo by Maj. Hank McIntire

An Alpha Company Soldier, left, carries his bags to an

awaiting Blackhawk helicopter with some help from his son.