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By 449th Theater Aviation Brigade Public Affairs Office
BALAD, Iraq — When one thinks of all the steps and pieces of a deployment, one usually thinks of a unit-sized element deploying. One usually imagines 100 to 300 Soldiers training, preparing and deploying together.
However, that is not the picture one gets if they were to imagine A Company, 1st Battalion, 52 Aviation Regiment, an active-duty unit out of Fort Wainwright.
A Company, 1-52, deployed as a single company to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Their primary mission would be flying dignitaries and VIPs.
With them, they would bring a total of 45 Soldiers, all of them trained in military occupational specialties such as pilot, helicopter mechanic or crew chief. They would be their own admin, their own supply, their own support.
For Capt. Russel W. Vanderlugt, pilot and A Company, 1-52 commander, the orders to deploy as a company did not come as a huge shock. This was largely due to the fact 1-52 had already started sending single companies to Iraq previously to their deployment.
"Since I knew it was bound to happen, I knew we had to be prepared," Vanderlugt said. "It was our companies first deployment and we knew it was going to be a challenge, but we have survived and excelled because we came together as a company, knowing that we must be self sufficient, because if we do not do something, it will not get done."
A Company, 1-52, got things done by wearing two hats. They would do the job they were trained to do, but also take on a new position, such as being in charge of finance issues for the company, or being the company supply clerk.
"I am a crew chief as well as the company’s armorer," said Spc. James P. Foster. "I maintain the aircraft and conduct daily inspections and also repair Soldier’s weapons and do weapon inspections and modifications."
For Foster, a native of Cross City, Fla., this unique mission has taught him the importance of sacrifice and team work necessary to get a job done.
Everyone in the company pitches in despite their rank. First Sgt. Gary Sanders serves as the company’s first sergeant as well as being in charge of all administrative issues within the company. He also serves as a door-gunner on flights.
"We do any MOS that is necessary to make our company run," said the Cincinnati, Ohio, native. "Whatever needs to be done we do."
A Company, 1-52, certainly had a lot to be done from the very beginning of their deployment.
Thirty days in country, and they received orders to move approximately 300 miles away in support of 10th Mountain Division. Thirty days after that, they were then instructed to move to Joint Base Balad in support of Multi-National Corps — Iraq. This made for three moves and three complete tear down and build up cycles for the company within 90 days of their arrival in Iraq.
"That experience taught me about the awesome make up of Soldiers we have in our company," said Capt. Brandon S. Davis, A Company, 1-52 flight platoon leader. "I am humbled to have the experience to learn so much from fellow Soldiers and see us all come together as a team and make things happen."
From the minus 57 degrees of Alaska, to the 120 plus degrees of Iraq, A Company, 1-52 has excelled not only as a company, but as Soldiers.