April 5 ceremony recognizes 238th General Support Aviation Battalion

PEORIA, IL (04/01/2014)(readMedia)-- Approximately 60 Illinois Army National Guard Soldiers will be recognized April 5 by the National Guard Bureau Freedom Salute Campaign for their sacrifice and service in support of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF). The ceremony for 2nd Battalion of the 238th General Support Aviation Battalion in Peoria, Ill. will be at 10 a.m. at the Army Aviation Support Facility #3, 2323 S. Airport Road in Peoria.

The unit mobilized in January 2013 and deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, returning home Dec. 14. The aviation unit includes members from across Illinois.

While deployed, the 238th flew CH-47 Chinook helicopters for heavy helicopter air movement and air assault missions. The company was also in charge of re-supply operations and aviation maintenance support. The 238th moved personnel and cargo across the battlefield to decisive points at critical times.

The company flew more than 3,100 combat hours, moving more than 14,000 people and three million pounds of cargo during its rotation.

"I cannot speak highly enough of this company and its Soldiers," said Maj. Clarence Pulcher of Morton, Ill., commander of the 238th. "We executed all of our missions without fail and without a single serious accident."

Pulcher highlighted his maintenance section's performance after several of the unit's aircraft were damaged by a hailstorm in April, just weeks after the unit arrived in Afghanistan.

"It was a hailstorm of biblical proportion dropping anywhere from pea-sized to baseball-sized hail," Pulcher said. "Living most of my life in Southern Illinois, tornado alley, I have never seen anything like it."

Pulcher said his maintenance teams worked around the clock to get the Chinooks airborne within two weeks.

The Freedom Salute Campaign is a small way to show these patriotic citizen-Soldiers, their families and employers how much their sacrifice is appreciated. On behalf of the National Guard Bureau, the Illinois Army National Guard will present each eligible Soldier with an encased American flag, as well as a sequentially-numbered commemorative coin, certificate of appreciation and lapel pin. Families will also receive items recognizing their support and sacrifice.

The Freedom Salute Campaign is one of the largest Army National Guard recognition endeavors in history. It is designed to publicly acknowledge Army National Guard Soldiers and those who supported them while deployed.

News media attending the event should arrive at least 30 minutes prior to the ceremony and are asked to contact the Public Affairs Office to gain access to Camp Lincoln.

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