Soldiers with the 28th Expeditionary Combat Aviation Brigade recently passed the midway point of their deployment to the Middle East.
They are serving in support of the fight against Daesh, maintaining a U.S. military posture in Southwest Asia and enhancing partnerships with U.S. allies. Their primary roles are aviation operations using UH-60 Black Hawk, CH-47 Chinook and AH-64 Apache helicopters, as well as some fixed-wing and unmanned aerial assets.
The 28th ECAB’s overarching mission in the Middle East is to support U.S. Central Command in creating an environment for peace and stability in the region in support of U.S. interests.
Spc. Tyler Speer’s feelings about reaching the halfway point in the deployment echo many other Soldiers in the brigade. He is proud of what has been accomplished so far but is still excited to finish and go home.
“My unit and I have accomplished many missions, but some that stick out are when we refueled Apaches, helping them with a mission in western Iraq, or when we refueled an allied CH-47 that was transporting an ISIS prisoner,” said Speer, a petroleum supply specialist with Echo Company, 2-104th General Support Aviation Battalion, 28th ECAB, who currently serves at a remote outpost near the Syrian border. “But I look forward to getting home, getting back on the ice and playing hockey and seeing my girlfriend and our new house.”
When the 28th ECAB arrived in the Middle East in September 2020, they took over for the 34th ECAB, an aviation unit from Minnesota who had been serving here since late-2019. Soldiers with the 34th ECAB ensured a smooth transition and that 28th ECAB Soldiers could pick up where they left off.
Since then, 28th ECAB Soldiers have carried out their duties diligently, while still adhering to COVID-19 precautions. Their activities across the Middle East have included combat missions against Daesh, medevac, personnel movement, supply movement and the logistical requirements that make those missions possible. They have also played a key role in enhancing the interoperability capabilities between the U.S. and militaries from allied nations.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic and civil unrest, the 28th ECAB left their homes and families in July 2020 for training and in-processing at Fort Hood, Texas. Almost 1400 Soldiers came together from nine different states, including New Jersey, West Virginia, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin, Nebraska and Oklahoma with the majority coming from Pennsylvania.
While at Fort Hood, COVID-19 presented unique challenges and Soldiers had to adhere to numerous precautions. Those precautions included a 14-day quarantine upon arrival, a COVID-19 test for each Soldier, limiting movement to a designated cohort area, wearing masks, social distancing and increased emphasis on personal hygiene and sanitation.
Soldiers across the brigade also completed many flight hours, refueling operations, gunnery training, logistics operations and functional training there to ensure their mission readiness.
"We were able to bring nine different states together and, within a relatively short period of time, jelled into a great organization," said Col. Howard Lloyd, 28th ECAB commander. "The Soldiers not only got to know each other but they developed confidence in each other and are well-trained and motivated for this mission."