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Homeland Security

Falcon brigade takes flight in support of Hurricane Irene

September 1, 2011

By Maj. Anthony Eagle, 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade

HUNTER ARMY AIRFIELD, Ga. - In the wake of Hurricane Irene, the Third Infantry Division's 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade deployed nearly 70 Marne Air Soldiers, nine UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters and with support equipment from Hunter Army Airfield, Ga. to Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J. and Fort Bragg, N.C., as part of the federal response effort on the East Coast, Aug. 27-28.

The 3rd Cbt. Avn. Bde. received a prepare-to-deploy order last week and immediately established a tactical operations center at the brigade headquarters where they conducted risk assessment of requested support and monitored the deployment of forces and sustainment requirements; as well as maintained situational awareness on Irene's track, refueling sites and staging areas. The elements deployed in support of the Department of Defense tasks and the Federal Emergency Management Agency requested mission assignments.

"Combat missions supporting U.S. and Coalition forces or contingency expeditionary force missions in support of natural disaster relief are a true reflection of our Soldier's readiness, agility and professionalism," said Col. Allan Pepin, 3rd CAB commander. They are prepared to conduct medical evacuation, search and rescue support, air movement and reconnaissance operations as required until released."

The deployed Soldiers, primarily from the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Aviation Regiment and the 603rd Aviation Support Battalion, were organized for the mission to support Falcon Response - severe weather response support and called Task Force Knighthawk. Whereas the majority of Soldiers from the brigade's headquarters manned the 24-hour TOC here on Hunter in order to provide command and control throughout the deployment. Additionally, elements from the 4th Battalion, 3rd Aviation Regiment and 603rd ASB provided support as well; they provided maintenance assessments and recovery operations for the deploying assets.

In the days during the landfall of Hurricane Irene, the first two Black Hawks, Team Storm, departed Hunter, Aug. 27, under the command of Capt. Christopher Colbert, and arrived at Simmons Airfield. The following day the crew began aerial reconnaissance support for FEMA officials to assess the damage on the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

"Thankfully the danger we observed was much less catastrophic than we feared," Capt. Colbert said. "We were very relieved to see minimal damage caused by the destructive force of Hurricane Irene upon her landfall in the Carolinas."

The other seven Black Hawks that departed Hunter, Saturday under the command of Lt. Col. Michael Higginbotham, arrived Sunday at Joint Base MDL, and fell under the control of the U.S. Army North Command and Task Force 51. These Soldiers are awaiting missions requested by FEMA. But, we project they will be released back to Hunter soon.

Nearly a year ago, the 3rd CAB Soldiers were the first U.S. responders to answer the call of the flood-ravaged Pakistan while simultaneously conducting combat operations in Afghanistan.

During their ninth month of deployment the CAB deployed Task Force Raptor to help rescue thousands who were stranded from the monsoon's floods. And that was not the only recovery/relief mission; there were three more alone in Afghanistan. In addition to combat operations Task Force Falcon also provided humanitarian aid, medical assistance and transport to Afghan civilians after a devastating avalanche, an earthquake and flash floods.

While the 3rd CAB Soldiers are no strangers to responding to the call for assistance following tragedy and devastation, this time it's on U.S. soil.

"These great Soldiers have and will continue to represent their units, the 3rd CAB, 3rd ID and our Army with pride while supporting those abroad and their fellow countrymen on our own homeland," Col. Pepin said. "Their Families continue to support our nation as they again endure separation from their loved ones, but they've displayed great resolve understanding the Marne Division and their Soldiers must be ready for Contingency Expeditionary Force missions that can occur on short timeliness. I'm extremely proud of this team and we are committed to learn and improve from this experience."

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