Soldiers of B Company, 2nd General Support Aviation Battalion, 211th Aviation Regiment, conduct sling load training at Army Aviation Support Facility #2 in St. Cloud on Dec. 18, 2015. (Minnesota National Guard photo by: Sgt. 1st Class Benjamin Houtkooper)
The St. Paul-based 34th Combat Aviation Brigade is an Army National Guard unit that supports the 34th Infantry Division and the state of Minnesota by providing aviation capabilities - both UH-60 Black Hawk and CH-47 Chinook helicopters and the C-12 Huron fixed-wing aircraft - for federal and state missions.
In 2016 the 34th CAB deployed 20 Soldiers and four of its Chinooks from B Company, 2nd General Support Aviation Battalion, 211th Aviation Regiment, for a year-long deployment to Afghanistan in support of Operation Freedom Sentinel. Incorporated into an aviation task force with the 1st Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, aircrew members logged more than 1,000 hours of combat flight time in support of operations in Afghanistan.
Additionally, 40 Soldiers from both B and C Companies, 834th Aviation Support Battalion, returned from a seven-month deployment in support of Operation Spartan Shield. Soldiers with 834th ASB provided aviation, mechanical and communication operations for U.S. Army Central units stationed at Camp Buehring, Kuwait.
In spring 2016 the 34th CAB conducted domestic operations to assist in the suppression of wildfires near Skibo and Hibbing. At the request of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, and under the authority of Gov. Mark Dayton, 20 personnel and four Black Hawk helicopters flew a total of 34 hours while dropping 112,200 gallons of water to help contain the fires.
In 2016 members of the 2nd Battalion, 147th Assault Helicopter Battalion, realized a great training achievement after its Soldiers completed their new equipment training on the UH-60M model Black Hawk helicopter. All pilots, staff officers, maintainers and crew chiefs underwent the UH-60 conversion in order to fully employ the brigade's fleet of state-of-the-art airframes.
Lastly in 2016, the 34th CAB strengthened ongoing relationships with its active duty counterparts under the Army Total Force Partnership Program, which directs commanders from all components to undergo collective training to improve integration and readiness. Working with the 4th Combat Aviation Brigade out of Fort Carson, Colorado, the 34th CAB executed four training events, including a division Warfighter exercise, to enhance its own readiness and ensure the two brigades' ability to support one another in future operations.
In 2017 the 34th CAB will undergo two major training events, Talisman Saber, an annual training event with I Corps and the Australian Defense Force to prepare for worldwide combat operations and humanitarian aid missions, and an eXportable Combat Training Capabilities exercise, an intense, platoon-level field training event at Fort Hood, Texas.