Chinook Company to Deploy to Mideast

More local troops are preparing to head overseas in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Based out of Hunter Army Airfield, Company F of the 131st Aviation Regiment will be heading to Fort Benning for several weeks and then on to the Middle East.

This a somewhat different mission for the 131st. These are the people who fly the Chinook helicopters for a variety of air-support missions. But what makes this deployment a little more unique is that this is the first time this company's been deployed in wartime situation.

"There's always some degree of anxiety that goes along with a deployment, leaving loved ones, things of that nature," said Capt. Steve Hartman. "But over all, our morale is high and we're looking forward to making a contribution to the war on terrorism and just looking forward to coming back home next year."

For Company F, the primary mission is providing disaster relief for victims of hurricanes and wildfires.Now they're doing final preparations on the machines that will fly them to a destination none of them have ever experienced. "Whenever you go over to a foreign country, you're working with different people, different cultures, different nationalities, and of course that poses challenges that must be overcome," said Capt. Hartman.

But for now, the tarmac lays silent because the men and women who are being deployed have one last thing to do before they go. "Just go home, spend your time with your loved ones, just come back tomorrow ready to conduct your mission," said Capt. Hartman.

Company F will be leaving to Fort Benning tomorrow morning. They will train there for about a month before heading to the Middle East.

Reported by: Nicole Teigen,