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The news of Chief Warrant Officers Ron Young’s and David Williams’ release prompted applause and tears of joy among their squadron mates with the 1st Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, at the Army’ s aviation base camp in central Iraq.

“We’re ecstatic, jubilant. There are smiles all over the place,” said Maj. Michael Mahony, 38, of Warwick, R.I., the unit’s executive officer. “This is the best news we could have ever had.”

An officer from the 11th Aviation Regiment, under whose command the Fort Hood, Texas-based unit has been operating, rushed across the dusty lane to break the news before it was on television. Lt. Col. Danny Ball, the unit’s commanding officer, told his troop mates in Company C before catching a helicopter to Kuwait City in hopes of seeing Young and Williams.

“There were looks of disbelief, crying going on — it was amazing,” Mahony said.

The two men were lost when their AH-64D Apache Longbow helicopter was forced to the ground south of Baghdad by fierce ground fire March 23 during an attack on the Iraqi Republican Guard’s Medina Division. Their Iraqi captors had paraded them on television, and the sight of two of their own as war prisoners sobered the squadron.

“We didn’t stop operating, but the air was definitely a little bit different,” said Maj. Lance Atkins, 38, of Birmingham, Ala. “This is wonderful news. We are complete now.”

“Morale just went up 100 percent,” said Capt. Cain Baker, 29, of Fayetteville, Ga., a 1-227 Aviation staff officer. “It’s just a miracle. Whoever held them just had to have a little human decency.”

Col. William Wolf, 11th Aviation commander, said the news came as a huge relief to everyone in his command.

“Of all the fights we’ve been in, this completes the war,” he said. “We haven’t lost any aircraft, and we haven’t lost any crews. That’s very, very welcome news.”

— Steve Liewer is embedded with the 2nd Squadron, 6th Cavalry.

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