War on Terrorism

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Live from Iraq: Iron Hawks ready to fly home

By Lt. Col. Marty Pond
Commander, 1st Battalion, 147th Aviation Regiment, Wisconsin Army National Guard
By Wisconsin National Guard Public Affairs

The seasons are changing, and summer is just over the horizon. May has brought flowers to Wisconsin and the mighty 2nd Battalion, 224th Aviation Regiment — the Punishers — of the Maryland Army National Guard to Iraq. And as folks back home complete spring cleaning and prepare for summer, the 1st Battalion, 147th Aviation Regiment — Iron Hawks — is preparing to return to Wisconsin, and Michigan, Indiana and Washington D.C.

The Punishers on the ground here in Iraq, conducting the relief in place (RIP) process which allows them to assume the mission we have held the past several months. They are a fantastic group of Soldiers, and we have welcomed them as brothers in arms with the same professional enthusiasm we have faced every challenge over the past year.

Your Soldiers have performed above expectations throughout the past year. They have earned and received the 2010 Army Aviation Association of America’s John J. Stanko award as the best helicopter unit in the Army National Guard. That is a rightful recognition of their excellence, but it hardly scratches the surface of their many accomplishments.

The strength of this battalion is the unmatched performance of our companies. Each company has set a new standard of performance, and raised the bar of expectations for every other unit to follow. Every company has grown stronger and lived up to the motto of the 1st Infantry Division (the unit we supported in Iraq) — “No mission too difficult, no sacrifice too great.” Our men and women developed new ways to meet the challenges and never failed a mission.

The strength behind our companies is our Soldiers. Each Soldier was essential in the success of our mission as they found the internal fortitude to overcome the challenges of this deployment, and to support each other during a very demanding, but ultimately satisfying, year.

Our Soldiers share an uncommon bond. Only one percent of the U.S. population have served in the military — your Soldier has paid for membership in a unique group of volunteers. Their service has been recognized with medals and awards, but also with something less tangible yet more rewarding — for the rest of their lives, they belong to a brotherhood of arms, a brotherhood forged by great sacrifice. This is a bond that can never be broken. Your Soldier has paid the price and earned this right.

Without your support — the families and friends of our Soldiers — none of this would have been possible. Our nation, the U.S. Army, the National Guard organizations of Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana and Washington, D.C., our battalion and I owe you a debt of gratitude we can never repay. You have also, with your sacrifices and your support, earned entry into an elite group of Americans.

Thank you for your support over the many long months. I look forward to seeing you when our Soldiers return home. And thanks as well to the men and women of the 2nd Battalion, 224th Aviation Regiment for taking the mission and moving forward.

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