A community sendoff was held today for members of a Waterloo-based Iowa Army National Guard helicopter unit that will be mobilized tomorrow.

National Guard spokesperson Colonel Greg Hapgood says the soldiers will provide aerial medical evacuations and transportation of patients to combat hospitals.

“The unit has 35 members that have been selected for this particular mission, They’ll take a handful of aircraft with them when they go,” Hapgood says. “They’ll head to Fort Hood, Texas to do some training for about six to eight weeks and then they’ll head to the Middle East.”

Hapgood says this assignment will be familiar for many of the 35 soldiers who are part of the group.”This particular unit has been mobilized multiple times. The last time was in 2012, so it’s only been approximately four to five years since the last time they went. It’s a well-trained unit, highly specialized, very much qualified and ready to go and do this job,” Hapgood says.

Hapgood says the mission is expected to last about one year. He says it was planned well in advance of President Trump’s speech this week about increasing U.S. troop numbers in Afghanistan.

Thanks to Pat Blank, Iowa Public Radio.