1st Battalion - 171st Aviation Regiment
Detachment 1, 171st Aviation Battalion of the Florida Army National Guard performs flights for a variety of missions, including transporting people and supplies and supplementing other military operations. The unit provides mission support to all branches of the military. The detachment provided support during the 1998 and 1999 Florida wildfires and during Hurricane Floyd and Hurricane Georges. The battalion also provided airlift support in 1998 for Operation New Horizons, a U.S. military training and humanitarian exercise in Honduras. The detachment also provides passenger and cargo transport for all branches of U.S. active-duty and reserve forces.
On 03 March 2001 the crash of a twin-engine transport near Unadilla, Ga., 30 miles south of Macon killed killed 21 guardsmen. The Virginia guardsmen were members of the 203rd Red Horse Flight and were flying home through heavy rain after two weeks of annual training at Hurlburt Field, Fla. The aircrew of the C-23 Sherpa transport were assigned to Detachment 1, 1st Battalion, 171st Aviation in Lakeland, Fla. No one survived the crash. National Guard historians were calling it among the worst peacetime tragedies in the National Guard's 364-year history. The plane was assigned to the Florida National Guard's 171st Aviation Battalion and based at Lakeland, Fla. It had taken off from Hurlburt Field near Fort Walton Beach, Fla., and was headed to Oceana Naval Air Station, Va., when it went down. Three members of the C-23 Sherpa crew were taking the Virginia Guardsmen home after they completed annual training at Hurlburt Field near Fort Walton Beach, Fla. It was the nation's worst military aviation accident since 1982 when an Air National Guard air refueling tanker crashed in Illinois, killing 27 people including 23 National Guard members. And the Virginia Guard has not had as many casualties since D-Day during World War II on Omaha Beach. The Collateral Investigation Board found the preponderance of the evidence concluded that the aircraft accident was due to crew error. The board found other factors may have influenced the crew's decision making process and aircraft performance. This is normally the case in most aircraft human factor accidents. The board did find the preponderance of the evidence directed the board toward the crew's failure to properly load the aircraft.
The 171st Aviation Battalion of the Florida National Guard, relocated to Hernando County from Lakeland in March 2001.
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