Saturday, March 31, 2012

N.D. Aviators Serving on Rotations to the Southwest Border

BISMARCK, N.D. —Soldiers with the North Dakota Army National Guard have been serving on the on the U.S.-Mexico border as a way to provide continued support to the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol.

Their mission began in February and is expected to continue until the end of the year. An OH-58 Kiowa helicopter and crew of two pilots along with an aircraft maintainer will serve one- to three-month rotations.

"The aviators from North Dakota will gain a tremendous amount of experience by flying in an austere environment different from what they are used to here at home, said Maj. Paul Helten, supervisory instructor pilot with the North Dakota Army Guard. "This will require constant attention to power management and other hot-weather-flying techniques."

The aviators will also benefit in other ways while also bringing already-honed experience with them.

"They will also benefit from joint operations experience by working with the other federal agencies," said Helten. "Our aviators work closely with our local law enforcement here in North Dakota, and their security and support battalion experience will prove valuable during this operation."

Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, N.D. Army National Guard aviators have served in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kosovo and Djibouti (Horn of Africa).

"North Dakota Army Aviation continues to try to provide the best possible support to our state and our nation, whether through deployments overseas, across the nation or right here in North Dakota supporting local or state emergencies," Helten said. "Our ability to support state or local emergencies will not be affected by this (border patrol) mission."