A redeployment ceremony was held at Wheeler Army Airfield today to welcome home about 2,600 aviation brigade soldiers from an Afghanistan deployment that saw the loss of two Black Hawk helicopter crews — one to pilot disorientation in a sandstorm and the other to a rocket-propelled grenade.
Between 1,800 and 1,900 soldiers stood at attention on the flightline as the 25th Combat Aviation Brigade unfurled its battle flags at its home station.
Brigade commander Col. Frank Tate said his soldiers’ “initiative, hard work, warrior ethos and complete dedication to mission drove them to accomplish more than any similarly-sized Army aviation unit in history.”
The brigade flew 139,000 hours in support of soldiers on the ground — 35,000 more hours than their predecessors, Tate said.
Tate also recognized eight aviation brigade soldiers killed in action on two Black Hawks that went down in southern Afghanistan.
One chopper crashed April 19 on a night rescue mission when visibility quickly dissolved into a blinding and disorienting curtain of wind and dust and a phenomenon known as “spatial disorientation” occurred, and the aircraft impacted the ground, killing the Hawaii crew of four, family members previously said.
Four Black Hawk crew members from Schofield Barracks and three Navy sailors — two Navy SEALs and a Navy explosives expert — were lost on Aug. 16 when a rocket-propelled grenade downed their chopper, Tate said.
Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal technician Sean P. Carson was among those who were killed.
Carson, 32, was from Des Moines, Wash., but was based at the Marine Corps base at Kaneohe Bay from 2001 to 2004. He met his wife, Nicole, in Hawaii, and traveled here at least twice a year with his family.
Three members of the Afghan security forces and a Afghan civilian interpreter also were killed in the crash.