LATHAM, N.Y. - New York Army National Guard Sgt. Robert Benson of Rotterdam, is greeted by his wife Donya, 16 year old daughter Danya and 13 year old son Dylan, as he returned home to the Army Aviation Support Facility, May 30, after completing one-year of active duty for Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Benson, and more than 160 members of the New York Army National Guard's 3rd Battalion, 142nd Assault Helicopter Battalion served in Iraq for nine months, returning to the United States last weekend and completing their demobilization tasks. The Capital District welcomed home more than 35 of these Soldiers this weekend.
The battalion, headquartered near Long Island's Islip MacArthur Airport at the New York Army National Guard's Ronkonkoma Army Aviation Support Facility, also has a flight company near Albany International Airport in Latham, N.Y.
Known in Iraq as Task Force Jester, the aircrews and Soldiers of the 3-142nd conducted aviation operations throughout central and southern Iraq to support coalition and Iraqi forces movements of troops and supplies.
The battalion of more than 320 Soldiers conducted split based operations with a company located in Basra and the remainder of the battalion at Baghdad International Airport.
By May of 2009, Task Force Jester had oversight of 62 aircraft(55 UH-60 Blackhawks and seven AH-64 Apaches), more than double the unit's normal complement of helicopters without additional staffing.
Over the course of the deployment, the aircrews from the task force flew more than 15,000 flight hours, moving more than 50,000 personnel and 1,000,000 lbs. of cargo.
This event marks the homecoming for the remainder of the battalion's troops. The unit will come back together in approximately one month to begin their Yellow Ribbon reintegration program to offer Soldiers and their families information and services prior to returning to a regular National Guard drill status.