Air Traffic Service Soldiers Deploy to Iraq Theatre of Operations
Maj. Gen. Ron Chastain, the adjutant general of the Arkansas National Guard, visits with Soldiers and their families during a going away celebration on Monday at Camp Shelby, Miss. Family members and Guard leaders gathered at Camp Shelby to bid farewell to the Soldiers, who were deploying with Company D, 1st Battalion, 114th Aviation (Air Traffic Services) of the 77th Aviation Brigade. Over 60 Soldiers strong, the unit departed Camp Shelby, Miss, on Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2006, for their yearlong deployment in Iraq.

CAMP SHELBY, Miss. (11/1/2006) - Over 60 more Soldiers with the Arkansas Army National Guard departed Camp Shelby, Miss, on Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2006, for their yearlong deployment in Iraq. Family members and Guard leaders gathered at Camp Shelby Monday to bid farewell to the Soldiers, who are deploying with Company D, 1st Battalion, 114th Aviation (Air Traffic Services) of the 77th Aviation Brigade.

The unit initially mobilized into federal active duty service on May 1, 2006, and deployed from Camp Shelby upon completion of their pre-deployment training. The 77th, which is based at Camp Robinson in North Little Rock, will provide air traffic control services and ground controlled approach radar to several tactical airfields operating in the Iraqi theater. The company's departure marks the last of the brigade's Soldiers slated for mobilization into the Iraqi theatre of operations. The unit has nearly 300 of its men and women deployed to various locations in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

This is the third mobilization for some of the Soldiers, as the air traffic services group previously served a tour in Kosovo, as well as a yearlong rotation in Iraq and Kuwait.

"I take some bit of comfort knowing this is the second trip to Iraq for about half of you," said Maj. Gen. Ron Chastain, the adjutant general of Arkansas. "You know what to expect when you get over there, so help your fellow Soldiers that don't have the benefit of that experience."

Conway resident and Company D commander, Capt. William Huffer said, "This [pre-deployment] period, although five months long, has been great for the organization and the Soldiers. We have gotten some new equipment and many of the Soldiers have received training and certifications they may not have otherwise attained for many years."

General Chastain encouraged spouses and family members to stay connected.

"Maintain contact and communication frequently to minimize rumors," said the general.

Chastain said that rumors and bad information can kill an organization faster than anything else.

"Keep in contact with each other and with your Soldier. And when you need help, let your family support group or the command group assist you however they can."

Chastain added that a year away from home seems like a long time, but looking back on his own recent tour in Iraq with the 39th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, the general said "keep busy and stay focused on your mission and the time will pass rapidly."

The Soldiers said goodbye to family and friends and returned to the barracks to complete final preparations for Tuesday's flight to Iraq at 4 p.m. With this group's departure, the Arkansas National Guard will have over 1,700 Arkansas Soldiers and Airmen mobilized in the global war on terror. Over 10,000 Soldiers and Airmen strong, the Arkansas Guard has supported the mobilization of over 8,000 troops since Sept. 11, 2001. Many of the Guardsmen accounted for in this number have served on two or more mobilizations in support of the global war on terror.

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