UCM Hosts Guard Battalion Headed to Afghanistan
Contact: Jeff Murphy
WARRENSBURG, MO (March 25, 2013) – Family members and friends of about 300 men and women who serve in the Missouri National Guard braved snowy conditions Sunday, March 24, to support their Guard members who will soon deploy as an attack and reconnaissance asset to Afghanistan. The University of Central Missouri hosted the event in the Multipurpose Building.
The 1–135th Attack Reconnaissance Battalion is headquartered at Whiteman Air Force Base with a company in Clinton. It recently completed its 30-day annual training, which encompassed pre-mobilization training at Gowen Field, near Boise, Idaho, where the unit conducted essential Army training with day and night aerial gunnery, high-altitude flight training and theater-specific individual required training. The soldiers will now travel to Fort Hood, Texas, to continue their mobilization training before making the journey to Afghanistan.
Heads bowed during benediction, members of the 1–135th Attack Reconnaissance Battalion at Whiteman Air Force Base participate in a departure ceremony Sunday, March 24 in the University of Central Missouri Multipurpose Building. Joining approximately 300 individuals to soon be deployed to Afghanistan are front row, from left, Sgt. 1st Class Barry Keck, 56, and Pvt. Haley Cronk, 18, who were presented U.S. and Missouri flags, respectively, as the oldest and youngest member of the deployment unit.
As Maj. Gen. Steve Danner, adjutant general of the Missouri National Guard, spoke to the soldiers on Sunday, he recognized the strong roles military veterans and family of current soldiers play in this deployment.
“The things we are doing today have been made possible because of all our veterans,” he said, asking those audience members who served in the military to stand up.
Danner reminded the soldiers of 1st Attack to “keep an eye on the ball.” He said he wants them to stay mission focused and return safely, and he encouraged the veteran members of the unit who have been deployed before to take the first-time soldiers under their wings.
In addition, Danner encouraged men and women of the Guard to remember to maintain strong communication with their families while they are away from home. With technology today, opportunities such as Skype, Facebook, and other social networking sites enable Guard members to keep in touch with their families.
“You are only part of your deployment,” he told the soldiers. “When you deploy your family deploys with you.”
UCM President Charles Ambrose joined guest speakers that included Warrensburg Mayor Don Butterfield and Sedalia Mayor Elaine Horn in addressing the group. Butterfield told the soldiers the community is there to support their families while they are away, and Horn commended the soldiers as being “ordinary people” who do “extraordinary things.”
Ambrose said the university shares a mission of service with the military, and asked soldiers to remember, “We are part of your hometown team. For your dependents, family members and kids, if there are needs that you have while you are deployed and we can help meet them, we are here for you. Please let them (family members) know all they have to do is ask.”
He added, “We are going to miss your approaches at Skyhaven Airport, and we’re going to miss your presence in the community when you not here, but we are certainly going to keep you in our thoughts and prayers for your work ahead.”
By tradition, presentations were made to the oldest and youngest members of the Guard who are being deployed. Danner presented the United States flag to Sgt. 1st Class Barry Keck, a 56 year-old Guardsman with 22 years of military service, and the Missouri flag was presented by Sgt. Maj. Will Pierce to Pvt. Haley Cronk, 18, who is embarking on her first deployment.
Letters of support for the men and women being deployed were provided by state and national officials who could not be at the ceremony. The letters came from Gov. Jay Nixon, U.S. Senators Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Claire McCaskill (D-MO), and Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-MO).
The 1-135th Attack Reconnaissance Battalion has a rich history as an Army Aviation Battalion within the Missouri National Guard. The battalion has trained with the UH-1 Huey, OH-58A/C Kiowa, AH-1F Cobra and the AH-64A Apache helicopters. It has evolved into an AH-64D Longbow Apache unit and has completed two successful annual training gunnery exercises and one high-altitude mountainous environment training exercise.