66 Guard members headed to Iraq
By PETER HIRSCHFELD Vermont Press Bureau | April 08,2010
With nearly 1,500 Vermont soldiers already on the ground in Afghanistan, word came down this week that more than 60 additional Vermont National Guardsmen will be deployed to Iraq later this year.
Maj. Gen. Michael Dubie this week informed 66 members of Vermont's Air Ambulance Unit that they will depart in September for a yearlong tour in Iraq. The Army unit, comprised of pilots, emergency medical technicians and crewmen, will transport wounded U.S. servicemen from Iraq battlefields to hospital facilities.
"Between now and September we will do everything needed to properly prepare, train and equip the soldiers and their families to perform this mission," Dubie said in a message delivered to Guard families Tuesday. "For the family members, I understand how difficult the next few months will be preparing for the deployment. We have a tremendous staff at the Family Readiness Center to help you with this process."
The same unit served a yearlong hitch in Iraq in 2006, when they performed more than 1,000 medical transports, according to Lt. Col. Lloyd Goodrow, a public affairs officer for the Vermont National Guard.
While the bulk of the mission will involve the transport of wounded U.S. and allied servicemen, Goodrow said the medical unit will offer help to whoever needs it. The unit will include members who participated in the previous deployment.
"'You call, we haul' is the bottom line," Goodrow said. "They make no distinction between the enemy, our guys or civilians. They are on a humanitarian mission."
The soldiers will fly helicopter transports in six state-of-the-art helicopters now based at the unit's headquarters near Burlington International Airport. They will deploy alongside a sister unit from Massachusetts.
Goodrow said the deployment will not affect domestic readiness for a Vermont Guard that has seen more than one-third of its personnel mobilized to Afghanistan.
"We have search-and-rescue helicopters staying in the state," Goodrow said. "And we'll still have the search-and-rescue capabilities provided by Army Aviation in Vermont."
With U.S. forces in the process of withdrawing from Iraq, Dubie told the Vermont soldiers they will be helping the country in a "historic" time.
"As the United States withdraws our main contingent of soldiers from Iraq and Operation Iraqi Freedom turns to Operation New Dawn, (Vermont soldiers) will be there to support a sovereign and free Iraq," Dubie said.