Black Hawk crews deploy to Iraq from Los Alamitos
More than a few tears were shed as the second wave of 50 troops from the California National Guard said its goodbyes and held loved ones tightly before flying off in formation aboard Black Hawk helicopters from the Joint Forces Training Base in Los Alamitos en route to a one-year deployment in Iraq.
All of the troops are members of the 1-140th Aviation Battalion (Task Force Long Knife), who fly and maintain the Black Hawk helicopters and will help move troops and supplies during their deployment.
One Black Hawk pilot, Chief Warrant Officer April Sanchez, and her fiance, Kirk Allred, held each other and kissed while they stood next to Sanchez’ helicopter, neither wanting to let the other go and neither wanting the moment to end. Eventually, the motors began to start, Sanchez's crew members began to strap on their helmets and the couple said their final goodbye.
Allred stood quietly on the edge of the runway while his fiancee slowly maneuvered the giant helicopter into a formation of other Black Hawks that made one last pass above family and friends and eventually flew out of sight.
Their journey to Iraq will take them to Ft. Hood, and then to Iraq’s central region, where the battalion will serve a key role in supporting the troop drawdown.
On Sunday, 50 troops departed; on Monday, another 50 and on Tuesday the remaining 200 troops will fly aboard a commercial jetliner from Los Alamitos, where the hugs and goodbyes will be repeated once more.
-- Mark Boster
Photos: (from top) Chief Warrant Officer April Sanchez kisses her fiance, Kirk Allred, goodbye on the flight line at the Los Alamitos Joint Forces Training Base. Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times
Olivia Carillo covers her mouth as she watches her grandson depart for Iraq aboard one of the California National Guard Black Hawk helicopters. Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times
Fifty troops from the California National Guard say their goodbyes as they depart for a 12-month deployment in Iraq. Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times