WESTFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Family and friends filled a hanger at Barnes Air National Guard Base to say goodbye to 21 soldiers scheduled to leave the base for a year-long deployment Thursday morning.
The soldiers are from the Detachment 1, Charlie Company, 3rd Batallion, 126th Aviation Regiment, Massachusetts Army National Guard at the Army Aviation Support Facility #2 at Barnes. This is the detachment’s fourth deployment since 9/11.
This time around, the detachment’s soldiers will be deploying in support of Operation Inherent Resolve and will be providing air medical evacuation to armed forces members overseas. Previously, the detachment has deployed to Iraq and Kuwait in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom, New Dawn, and Spartan Shield.
Among the soldiers is Staff Sergeant Matthew Thibodeau of Monson. He had to say goodbye to his two-year-old daughter Elora for the first time since she was born. He said, “It’s going to be a day-by-day process making it through deployment without her.” Thibodeau added, “A lot of people use Skype to talk back and forth with their families and I’ll definitely be using that quite a bit.”
Massachusetts National Guard Adjutant General, Major General Gary Keefe, wished the soldiers well and also encouraged family and friends to take advantage of the many services the National Guard offers while their loved ones are away. He said, “You don’t see it on television, but we are still at war, and they’re going to be involved in this.”
As part of the ceremony, several soldiers were awarded medals they have earned for their exemplary service.
Three Black Hawk medevac helicopters also deployed with the soldiers. They all headed to Fort Hood before the soldiers deploy to the Middle East. Their mission is to provide medical services to the troops overseas as part of Operation Spartan Shield and Operation Inherent Resolve.
“The way the numbers roll out is Medevac air ambulance units in the National Guard inherently will get more rotations,” explained Lt. Col. Jonas Patruno of the Massachusetts Army National Guard. He said this is the detachment’s fourth deployment since the attacks on September 11th. These soldiers will be relieving the other half of their unit, which was deployed in June of 2016.