The 1230th Air Cavalry Squadron out of McGhee Tyson Air National Guard base deployed Monday, March 30, to serve in Iraq.
State Sen. Doug Overbey said it was emotional as family members watched their sons, grandson, husbands and nephews depart for training in Oklahoma and then onto Iraq. “It’s an emotional scene. It makes you appreciate the sacrifice of not only these young men and women in the service but also their families left here at home,” he said. “It’s a real sense of gratitude to all veterans for their sacrifice to protect our freedoms.”
Kristen Belk cried as she watched her husband, Capt. Jesse Belk, leave as one of the choppers lifted off the tarmac. “It’s hard,” said her sister-in-law Tasya Belk. “It’s really hard. He’s my brother.”
First Lt. Jaime Blanton said the personnel from Alcoa would fly to Fort Sill, Okla., for six to eight weeks of training before shipping out to Iraq.
Sgt. Randy Harris with the Tennessee Army National Guard adjutant general’s office said 16 OH58 Delta Kiowa Warrior helicopters would be sent from Alcoa’s 1230th Air Cavalry Squadron along with 10 Blackhawk helicopters. About 200 individuals from Alcoa were set to deploy as part of a 600-person strong group from Tennessee along with 100 from Mississippi.
Harris said that while Blackhawks are used in troop transport, Kiowa Warriors are used mainly for reconnaissance.
The Squadron’s mobilization brings to more than 14,000 the number of Tennessee Army and Air National Guardsman who have deployed since Sept. 11, 2001.