Pilots with the 34th Combat Aviation Brigade prepare to land a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter on the deck of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary Lyme Bay in the Arabian Gulf. Photo by: 1st Lt. Holly Elkin
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 May 2014 the 34th CAB deployed its Headquarters Company and the 2nd Battalion, 147th Assault Helicopter Battalion, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. The units are stationed at Camp Buehring, Kuwait, to conduct aviation operations and security cooperation in support of U.S. Army Central Command. Since being deployed, members of the 34th CAB have also been tasked to support Operation Inherent Resolve, the U.S. military's efforts against militant groups in Iraq and Syria.
For the first time in several years the 34th CAB was not called upon to assist in state missions. The extra time allowed the brigade to refine its personnel readiness by logging hundreds of flight hours and conducting several interagency training events. Soldiers in the brigade flew the UH-60s and CH-47s a combined 4,005 flight hours, and worked with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to gain proficiency in wildfire support by conducting helicopter bucket and well operations.
Beyond preparing for its NTC rotation, 34th CAB soldiers will spend 2015 focusing heavily on new equipment training to ensure pilots and crew chiefs are proficient in flying the upgraded UH-60M Model. In 2015 Soldiers will train at the Western Army National Guard Aviation Training Site, Ariz., with the goal of having all flight crews trained by the end of the year.
In January 2015 the brigade will host the ninth annual Hockey Day Minnesota, an event that showcases the hockey tradition found throughout the state, in conjunction with the St. Paul civic group Serving Our Troops. This year will feature an outdoor rink at Holman Field, and honor those in military service while connecting with the deployed 34th CAB soldiers stationed in Kuwait through video and social media.