Chinook Helicopter unit set to deploy to Middle East
After a rainy morning a rainbow appears over the CH-47 Chinook helicopters during Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 168th General Support Aviation deployment ceremony at the Washington Army National Guard Army Aviation Support Facility at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. on May 6, 2020. Bravo Company is set to deploy to the middle east for the third time in 10 years. (Photo Credit: Sara Morris) VIEW ORIGINAL

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. – While more than 900 Washington National Guard members are supporting the COVID-19 response, one unit is training for a different kind of fight.

Deploying isn’t new for the Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 168th General Support Aviation. This is the third time in less than 10 years CH-47 Chinook pilots and crew members have mobilized in support of operations in the Middle East.

“This unit deployed in 2011, 2015 and now in 2020,” said Maj. Chris Herring, commander, Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 168th General Support Aviation. “Our guys are trained and professional and ready to serve.”

While much of the focus in the state has been on the COVID-19 response and supporting food bank missions and community-based testing sites, the National Guard continues to equip, train and deploy to the Middle East.

More than 400 Washington Guard members with the 1st Squadron, 303rd Cavalry Regiment, five members of the 156th Information Operations Battalion and five from the 341st Military Intelligence Battalion are deployed.

“We have been here before,” said Brig. Gen. Dan Dent, the commanding general, Washington Army National Guard. “In 1918, we had Guardsmen deploy to the European theater during World War I, while others stayed home to support the fight against the Spanish flu. We will get through this because we have done it before.”

Families, friends and Washington Army National Guard leadership gathered to say farewell during a deployment ceremony May 6 at the Army Aviation Support Facility, Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

“I am proud of you for being here, being in our Guard,” said Dent. “I am proud that you continue and maintain the proud tradition of those that came before you and wore this aviation patch. We will help here to help you and your families.”

The unit will head to its mobilization site for follow on training before deploying to the Middle East.

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