Guard aviation unit prepares for deployment to Iraq

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Family members and friends will say goodbye to another group of Alabama National Guard soldiers who are headed to the Middle East in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Three-hundred members assigned to the First Battalion, 131st Aviation Regiment, will be recognized at a deployment ceremony this afternoon at 2 p.m. at Garrett Coliseum in Montgomery.

A Guard spokesman said the 131st will be joined by another 100 citizen-soldiers based in Arkansas. The unit will train for several months at Fort Hood, Texas, before they deploy overseas.

The 131st will provide aviation support with its U-H-60 Blackhawk helicopters in Iraq.

Gov. Bob Riley and other dignitaries will address Guard members and their families and today's ceremony is open to the public.

Since September 2001, more than 11,000-400 members of the Alabama Army and Air National Guard have participated in the war on terrorism.