National Guard unit going back to Iraq

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 31, 2011

By Hugh Fisher
SALISBURY — Soldiers from Salisbury’s National Guard aviation unit are preparing to deploy to Iraq in the coming weeks.
About 80 members of C Company, 1-131st Aviation Regiment, will go to Fort Hood, Texas, where they will receive additional training before going overseas.
The Salisbury-based aviation unit was last deployed on active duty from October 2004 to January 2006, also in Iraq.
Known at that time as Company B of the 1-126th, they flew over 4,400 combat flight hours and returned home with no loss of aircraft or personnel.
According to a press release issued by the N.C. National Guard’s public affairs office, 28 members of the unit have been overseas at least once.
While in Iraq, C Company’s UH-60 “Blackhawk” helicopters will support “air assault and air movement operations,” according to the press release.
Further details of the mission have not been announced.
Here in Rowan County, C Company soldiers seem to be taking the deployment in stride.
Specialist Shane Miller, of Kannapolis, is an avionics technician.
Head wrestling coach at Erwin Middle School, Miller said he’ll miss his family, his friends and the kids he coaches. Otherwise, Miller said he is ready to do his duty on what will be his first deployment to Iraq.
“Honestly, it doesn’t bother me. It’s what we signed up to do,” Miller said.
Sgt. Don Money, an aircraft mechanic and crew chief, will be going overseas for the second time.
This deployment, however, is different.
“Last time, I was an infantry soldier. Now I’m in aviation,” he said.
“Instead of walking through the cities, I’ll be flying over them.”
In the days leading up to deployment, Money said he’s trying to concentrate on the mission he will have to do.
“I’m going to miss family, my girlfriend, the ability to just go out and do things,” he said.
In Iraq, it will be very different.
“You’re pretty focused, and what little time off you do get, you try to relax as much as you can,” Money said.
Money said the unit’s focus is positive.
“We’re all excited to be doing our jobs,” he said.
“You spend a long time away, but you’re going over there to defend your country and do your job to the best of your ability.”
Family and friends will honor C Company at a deployment ceremony to be held Saturday at the Koury Convention Center in Greensboro, starting at 3:30 p.m.
It’s unclear just when the unit will return to Salisbury. Deployments typically average about a year, but could be extended if conditions on the ground warrant.
Contact Hugh Fisher via the editor’s desk at 704-797-4244.