WATERLOO – As much of the summer of 2011 was marked by the return of Iowa National Guard soldiers and airmen, one unit will return into the combat zone.
On Thursday afternoon, family and other loved ones of approximate 50 members of the 211th Air Ambulance unit offered their applause, their love and their final hugs. The unit is leaving Waterloo for extended training at Fort Hood, Texas before the eventual destination of serving in Afghanistan.
Col. Greg Hapgood said this year-long mobilization is the first National Guard unit to be called up for 2012.
“They’re pilots, maintenance folks and medics,” said Col. Hapgood after Thursday’s ceremony. “They take care of patients, whether in the battlefield environment or in the medical facilities but, basically, their job is to move these patients in a helicopter fast to get them the critical care they need.”
Helicopters dotted the hangar at the Air Aviation Support Facility, on the north edge of the runway area at the Waterloo Regional Airport.
Sitting in the front row with her four-year-old daughter, Mandi Ambrose, of North Liberty, has been through this whole process before.
“Again, here we go,” Ambrose said with a smile before Thursday’s ceremony. “We went through this once before we were married, once when (Taryn) was a baby and, now, again we’ll go through it.”
Ambrose’s husband, Sgt. First Class Stan Ambrose, has served in the military for 16 years and this is his third mobilization. His first two tours, in 2003 and 2008, were in Iraq.
Only this time, the couple’s daughter, Taryn, 4, knows exactly what is going on.
“We actually have a really good family readiness group and they’re good at getting us information such as child care support,” said Mandi Ambrose.
Col. Hapgood said the sendoff ceremony for the 211th will be the catalyst for more ceremonies in the coming months. A reminder that the job of supporting the mission in Afghanistan is not over.
“The Iowa National Guard has deployed over 17,000 soldiers and airmen since (2001),” said Hapgood. “Last year was very different in that about 3,000 soldiers did come home over the summer and what we will start to see this year is soldiers departing again, for Afghanistan and other places.”