By Terry Hood, The News On 6
TULSA, OK -- Dozens of Oklahomans made their first step toward deployment in Iraq today. The 80 soldiers are part of "B Company of the 2nd of the 285th" National Guard aerial assault group.
Surrounded by family, friends, and proud patriots, 80 members of the Oklahoma Army National Guard were honored before they said goodbye.
"It's an honor to be with you here today, I know today is a day that is mixed with bittersweet feelings," said Adjutant General Myles Deering.
These men and women are with Company B of the Second 285th Assault Battalion or, simply, Bravo Company. They've spent the past month training at Fort Gruber.
Their mission will take them to Fort Sill, then on to southern Iraq, where they'll serve as aerial support for ground troops in battle.
"There's a great deal of self-sacrifice of serving our country and especially since 9/11," Deering said.
Among the unit is SKYNEWS 6 pilot Will Kavanagh who also flies a Black Hawk for Bravo Company. He's served in Iraq before and says the hardest part is saying goodbye to his two daughters.
"It's just hard, there's no real good way around it, and the best thing to do is you just keep reassuring them that you're there for them, that you love them, and you do miss them," said Black Hawk Pilot Chief Will Kavanaugh.
Finally the time has come: a round of applause and a hearty slap of the hand.
The Black Hawk's are airborne: 80 citizen soldiers with a ticket from Tulsa to Iraq, putting themselves in harm's way but proud to serve.
The unit won't leave the U.S. until the end of the year. They'll serve nine months in Iraq and are scheduled to come back home this time next year.
From Fort Sill, the National Guard crews will be deployed to Iraq.