Oklahoma Army National Guard Black Hawks Headed To Iraq

Monday, October 5th 2009, 4:03 pm
By: News On 6

By Rich Lenz, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- About 80 men and women from the Oklahoma Army National Guard are about to embark on a year-long mission to Iraq. Among those is SKYNEWS 6 pilot, Will Kavanagh.

Viewers of The News On 6 know him as Wild Will, willing to try anything for 6 In The Morning. But at Camp Gruber, they know him as Chief Kavanagh, Black Hawk Pilot and Iraqi War Veteran.

"I was there from 2004 through 2005. I was in Tikrit for about 14 months," said Chief Will Kavanagh, Iraqi War Veteran.

That experience will prove invaluable when Will, along with 80 other Oklahomans, return to Iraq as part of a year-long National Guard deployment.

"Me, as a Commander, it's critical. I ask those guys, ‘based on your experience, what do you advise?' I don't make decisions in a vacuum, so I get counsel from some of my senior leaders on my staff, those who have been in theater before and then I make my decision based on those assessments," said Phil Hemmert, Oklahoma Army National Guard.

B Company's Mission is simple - provide aerial assault to support the troops on the ground.

"Reducing their exposure to risk on the road is what we're all about over there," said Kavanagh.

The training consists of more than just flying a Black Hawk. He also went through his individual weapons qualification.

"I only missed one target with a pistol. I missed my first target with a pistol and then I got mad and shot the next 39. Killed the next 39, but you put me with a rifle, you got a better chance with a rifle," said Kavanagh.

"At times, when it's appropriate, I do have a little bit of a sense of humor, but I'm a lot more reserved, a lot more quiet, a lot more training," said Kavanagh.

Will is leaving behind two daughters and all the friends he has made at The News On 6.

"It's just hard. There is no good way around it. The best you can do is just keep reassuring them that you're there for them and you love them and that you do miss them, and that's the best you can do," said Kavanagh.

"He's a perfect example of that 'citizen soldier' you know, he flies for you seven days a week, you know, on call and now he has to put that on hold," said Phil Hemmert, Oklahoma Army National Guard.

Will's unit will leave Camp Gruber Tuesday for Fort Sill. They'll train there for a little bit, before deploying to Iraq.