Virginia National Guard Lakota helicopter and crew depart for Southwest Border support

A Virginia National Guard UH-72 Lakota helicopter and crew prepare for departure June 4, 2018. in Chesterfield, Virginia. (U.S. National Guard photo by Terra C. Gatti)

SANDSTON, Va. — A Virginia National Guard UH-72 Lakota helicopter with aviation crew departed June 4, 2018, to provide aerial detection and monitoring support for the Arizona National Guard’s mission to assist U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents on the Southwest Border. The mission is scheduled to last approximately 90 days and could be extended.

“Once again the Virginia National Guard has answered the call from our fellow states to provide capabilities they need to accomplish their assigned mission,” said Maj. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia. “Just as we are assisting the Arizona National Guard now and we helped last year in Texas and the U.S. Virgin Islands, other states would help us and come to Virginia if we needed them. I am confident in the abilities of the Soldiers we are sending, and they will come back to us in a higher state of readiness from the experience they will get.”

The Virginia National Guard supported Southwest Border operations with Operation Jump Start in 2006 and 2008 and previously provided aviation reconnaissance support in 2012, 2013 and 2015, Williams said. The requirement to provide aviation reconnaissance support came down to the Virginia National Guard from National Guard Bureau, and multiple states are providing similar capabilities to the Texas, Arizona and New Mexico National Guard.

A crew of four Virginia National Guard Soldiers assigned to the Chesterfield-based Detachment 1, Company A, 2nd Battalion, 151st Aviation Regiment are supporting the mission initially, then a second crew is scheduled to rotate in after approximately 45 days.

“The Southwest Border mission provides two important opportunities for Lakota detachment personnel,” explained Lt. Col. William X. Taylor, Virginia National Guard State Army Aviation Officer. “First, they gain experience using the Lakota’s aerial detection and monitoring capabilities in an unfamiliar environment. Second, they are able to complete more flying hours than they would get in a typical one-month period in Virginia. Both opportunities result in improved operational readiness for the Virginia Detachment.”

The Virginia National Guard will still have Lakota aviation capability in the state if needed for domestic operations, in addition to the full compliment of UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 224th Aviation Regiment in Sandston, Taylor said.