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Valorous Unit Award presented to Texas aviation regiment illustrates Guard 'warfight' mission

By Maj. Thomas W. Mehl | National Guard Bureau | September 09, 2014

ARLINGTON, Va. - The Texas Army National Guard's 1st Battalion, 149th Aviation Regiment is one of a number of Guard units to receive the Valorous Unit Award for service in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Flying the AH-64 Apache helicopter, the attack reconnaissance battalion with attached Guard units from Mississippi (Troop E, 1-104th Cavalry) and Missouri (Company A, 1-135th Aviation), was cited Feb. 8 for extraordinary heroism while supporting U.S. Army brigade combat teams, the Marine Expeditionary Force and Navy SEAL teams in Al Anbar Province, Iraq from Aug. 22, 2006 to July 8, 2007.

According to Army Regulation 600-8-22 (Military Awards), the degree of heroism required for a unit to be awarded the VUA is the same as that which would warrant award of the Silver Star to an individual. Citing the 1-149th Aviation's significant impact on combat operations in the volatile Al Anbar Province, the VUA citation states in part: "The tenacity of the aircrews to engage the enemy and the constant drive of the units' support elements enhanced the ability of coalition forces to bring the fight to the enemy, destroyed the enemy's initiative and provided a safer and more secure existence for the people of Ar Ramadi, Iraq."

Army National Guard attack aviation has its roots in the 1970s during the post-Vietnam drawdown and implementation of the Total Force Policy. Army Guard attack aviation units began flying the UH-1B Huey gunship in the mid 1970s, followed by the AH-1G Cobra in 1980. In the late 1980s, the Army Guard began flying the AH-64 Apache.

Constituted Oct. 1, 1987, in the Texas Army National Guard, the 1-149th Aviation is headquartered in Houston and assigned to the Texas Guard's 36th Combat Aviation Brigade. The battalion's service during the "National Resolution" and "Iraqi Surge" campaigns in Iraq was among the deadliest periods of combat operations in OIF.

Col. Rick Adams, the Texas State Army Aviation Officer, commanded the 1-149th during the unit's 2006-07 Iraq deployment. In a recent article announcing the battalion's receipt of the VUA, Adams talked about the Citizen-Soldiers under his command who earned the VUA.

"I was honored and humbled to serve with such a capable team of men and women," Adams said. "Their endurance and tenacity saved lives while turning the tide of combat in Iraq. I would not trade the Soldiers, skills and dedication of the 1-149th."

In addition to the VUA, individual aviators of the 1-149th ARB earned 12 Distinguished Flying Crosses and 39 Air Medals for Valor in the skies over Iraq.

Wording of theVUA Citation

"For extraordinary heroism in action against an armed enemy of the United States: During the period Aug. 22, 2006, to July 8, 2007, 1st Battalion, 149th Aviation Regiment, and the cited units, E Troop, 1-104th Cavalry and A Company, 1-135th ARB displayed extraordinary heroism in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The units performed superbly as a corps-level attack helicopter battalion, providing aerial weapons teams to the United States Army brigade combat teams, the Marine Expeditionary Force and Naval SEAL teams working in Ar Ramadi, Al Anbar Province, Iraq. The tenacity of the aircrews to engage the enemy and the constant drive of the units' support elements enhanced the ability of coalition forces to bring the fight to the enemy, destroyed the enemy's initiative and provided a safer and more secure existence for the people of Ar Ramadi, Iraq. The dedication of the Soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 149th Aviation Regiment and the cited units, to continuously accomplish the mission in the face of imminent danger, is in keeping with the finest traditions of military service and brings great credit upon the units, the 36th Combat Aviation Brigade, Multi-National Corps-Iraq and the United States Army."

Other states also sent Soldiers

Although the majority of Soldiers who deployed in 2006-07 with the Texas Army Guard's 1-149th Attack Reconnaissance Battalion for Operation Iraqi Freedom were native Texans, Army Guard units from Missouri and Mississippi deployed too.

The Missouri Army Guard's Company A, 1-135th Attack Reconnaissance Battalion located at Whiteman Air Force Base in Warrensburgand the Mississippi Guard's Troop E, 1-104th Cavalry of Tupelowere attached to the 1-149th ARB for the deployment and also earned the Valorous Unit Award.

Missouri's Company A mobilized 35 Citizen-Soldiers in February 2006, conducted pre-deployment training at Fort Hood, Texas, and deployed to Balad, Iraq, in July 2006. Completing an 18-month deployment, the unit returned to Missouri in August 2007.

Organized June 1, 2003, in the Mississippi Army Guard at Tupelo, 36 Citizen-Soldiers of Troop E, 1-104th Cavalry deployed to Iraq in July 2006 before returning to home station more than a year later. Today this unit is designated Det. 1, Company D, 1-151st Aviation, an attack reconnaissance battalion with units in both the South Carolina and Mississippi Army National Guard.

(Editor's note: This story is the first in a series offering a historical perspective on National Guard missions)