FAIRBANKS (AP) The first of 500 soldiers from a Fort Wainwright aviation battalion have returned after a 10-month deployment to Kuwait and Iraq, with the rest to follow in coming months, military officials said.
Members of the 4th Battalion, 123rd Aviation Regiment left Fairbanks in December, along with nearly 400 pieces of equipment including vehicles, trailers, containers and 22 of the battalion's Black Hawk and Chinook helicopters.
Eleven soldiers from the battalion returned last week, said Capt. Steve Pruitt. He said the rest of the battalion will return in stages throughout the next three months.
Pruitt said the battalion provided helicopter support throughout Kuwait and Iraq, mostly through support missions, transporting soldiers and equipment and on occasion, VIPs.
The battalion consists of Alpha Company, which oversees the UH-60 Black Hawk. It was stationed in Kuwait along with the headquarters company and Delta Company, which provided light aviation maintenance.
Bravo Company was stationed in Iraq with its CH-47 Chinook helicopters along with Charlie Company.
Pruitt said when the battalion first arrived in the Middle East, the heat was one of the biggest challenges the soldiers had to adapt to. But he said they quickly acclimatized and found the 90 to 100 degree temperature to be a welcome change from the tarmac surface, where temperatures often climbed to 130 degrees.
''I'm glad to be back in the cool temperatures,'' Pruitt said.
Once the entire battalion returns, the 4-123 will be disbanded. According to U.S. Army Alaska officials, at least part of the battalion will join with the 150 soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 52nd Aviation Regiment that arrived at Fort Wainwright in June from Korea.
Information from: Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, http://www.newsminer.com
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