BISMARCK The North Dakota National Guard along with family, friends and community supporters honored several soldiers from the Bismarck-based Detachment 42 Operational Support Airlift March 14 during a Freedom Salute ceremony at the Apple Creek Country Club in Bismarck.
The event celebrated the North Dakota aviators' successful 10-month deployment to Afghanistan. The unit mobilized in February 2013 and conducted 24-hour operations, providing aerial surveillance functions for units on the ground in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
"Today, we officially welcome home and honor the members of Detachment 42 for their extraordinary service in Afghanistan," said Gov. Jack Dalrymple. "The unit's aviators completed a highly-specialized mission and did so with great skill and success. We are proud of the outstanding job they performed and grateful to them and their families for their service and sacrifice."
Under the command of Chief Warrant Officer 4 Travis Bridwell, of Bismarck, the North Dakota soldiers operated three King Air 300 Medium Altitude Reconnaissance Surveillance System airplanes in the performance of their aerial surveillance missions. They served alongside other fixed-wing Army National Guard detachments from Arkansas, Maine, New Mexico, Puerto Rico and Utah and together comprised Task Force ODIN, which stands for observe, detect, identify and neutralize.
During the deployment, Det. 42 soldiers flew nearly 4,000 hours in support of Afghanistan operations over the course of 1,776 missions. While in Afghanistan, each pilot averaged 60 flying hours each month. While supporting Joint Operational Support Airlift Agency in the states, the average North Dakota aviator flies 200-300 hours a year.
"Every time our National Guard aviators are called to serve overseas, they perform their missions professionally and safely," said Maj. Gen. David Sprynczynatyk, N.D. adjutant general. "We are grateful for their service in support of our nation's overseas wartime missions and are proud to formally welcome them home."
Each soldier honored received a gift to present to a family member as thanks. Six of the soldiers recognized at the event received additional honors for having served on more than one deployment in the global war on terrorism.
Det. 42 previously has mobilized twice in support of the global war on terrorism. The unit served in Afghanistan from September 2004-March 2005 and the African nation of Djibouti from April 2009-February 2010. The soldiers returned to North Dakota after their most recent Afghanistan deployment on Nov. 10, 2013.