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Katterbach bids farewell to aviation brigade bound for 15 months in Iraq

KATTERBACH, Germany — Hundreds of soldiers, family members and U.S. and German civilians gathered at the Army air field here Thursday to send off the 12th Combat Aviation Brigade.

The men and women of Task Force 12 — nicknamed “Wings of Victory” and days away from a 15-month deployment in Iraq — stood smartly in formation as they were lauded by their commander, Col. Timothy J. Edens.

“Thank you for choosing to serve your nation as [soldiers],” Edens said. “The fact that you chose to serve when so many don’t …”

More than 2,400 soldiers from Katterbach and Illesheim will be deploying with the brigade. Edens, who will be commanding 3,100 soldiers while deployed, said the remaining troops are coming from units such the Minnesota National Guard’s 2nd Battalion, 147th Aviation Regiment.

Lt. Col. Greg Thingvold, commander of 2-147, said his more than 400 soldiers and their 30 UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters are excited to be teaming with the 12th. “Morale’s high. This is a good mission for us. It fits us well, and we’ll be able to do a lot of flying.”

One of the 12th’s units — 3rd Battalion, 159th Aviation Regiment — will not be deploying with the brigade, having returned from a year in Afghanistan late in 2006.

Having already deployed to Iraq once, Sgt. John Kasee, of the brigade’s Headquarters and Headquarters Company, said he felt fully prepared to go again.

“We’re ready to go and get into it,” Kasee said. “We’ve actually done quite a bit of training. We’ve spent the last 4-5 months in the field. Everyone’s ready to get there and get settled in.”

In attendance at the ceremony were six World War II veterans of the Easy Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment “Band of Brothers.” Along with three of the actors who portrayed the unit in the HBO miniseries of the same name, the six had been in Katterbach all week meeting with members of the 12th CAB family.

“We’re ready to get on with it,” Edens said after the ceremony. “Is there concern? Absolutely. Are we scared? Sure. I’m scared, but we’re trained and well-led. If there’s any unit capable of pulling off a successful mission with (Multi—National Corps—Iraq), it’s the 12th Combat Aviation Brigade.”


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