About 220 Minnesota soldiers headed for the Middle East left Friday morning for a year-long deployment, the Minnesota National Guard says.
Members of the 34th Combat Aviation Brigade are going first to Camp Ripley in Little Falls, Minnesota, for a two-week training, followed by more training at Fort Hood, Texas, and then deployment in June to Kuwait in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
The soldiers were gathering to say goodbye to family members Friday at the guard's aviation support facility in St. Paul.
“I know technology is good and there's a lot of ways to stay connected at home, but the kids are older, in school,” Sgt. Joe Vogel told FOX 9. “Just having the repetition of dad being home, dad helping with homework, sports and just playing outside – that's the part I'll miss.”
Aviators of the 34th CAB fly the UH-60 Blackhawk and CH-47 Chinook helicopters in support of the 34th Infantry Division.
Check out images of the brigade in action on its Flickr page.