State officials will officially send off 67 soldiers from the South Dakota National Guard in Rapid City Friday as they deploy to Iraq.

The Guard's Company C, 1st Battalion, 189th Aviation Regiment will leave this weekend for Fort Hood, Texas before deploying to Iraq in support of Operation New Dawn for one year. A ceremony at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center Friday afternoon will send them off.

The unit, made up of pilots, crew chiefs, medics, mechanics, avionics specialists and flight operations personnel is designed to provide aerial-medical evacuation support with its eight UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters.

Taking the state's eight choppers with them, the unit will spend two months in Texas training before the deployment, said Maj. Jon Murphy, the state aviation officer who will deploy with the group.

"The main mission is doing patient evacuation," Murphy said. "It could either be point of injury pickup, or it could just be a patient transfer."

South Dakota's soldiers will pair up with the other half of the regiment based out of Helena, Mont., in Texas.

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The 189th is based in Rapid City, but includes members from several other Black Hills communities, Murphy said.

Gov. Dennis Daugaard, First Lady Linda Daugaard, Mayor Alan Hanks and Adjutant General Tim Reisch are scheduled to attend the event Friday.

Contact Nick Penzenstadler at 394-8415


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