After more than two years of preparation and training, the 40th Combat Aviation Brigade, as Task Force Phoenix, formally assumed its overseas mission during a Transfer of Authority ceremony at Camp Buehring, Kuwait.
For the next nine months, the Task Force will provide full-spectrum aviation operations for the U.S. Central Command’s Operation Inherent Resolve and Operation Spartan Shield.
“The road to get here has not been easy—but we have overcome all challenges, and met them head on, with a smile,” Task Force Phoenix commander Col. Alan Gronewold said in a speech during the ceremony. “Every one of you has made a sacrifice to be here, as have your families, friends, and co-workers. I am grateful for all you have done up to this point, and I am grateful for all you will do.”
For many in the Task Force, this is not their first tour here. The 40th CAB headquarters and two of its battalions deployed to Iraq in 2010-2011 in support of Operation New Dawn. For that deployment, the 40th CAB headquarters was the command element for the largest CAB in history, responsible for the entire Iraq area of operations. The 40th CAB returned to the Middle East in 2015-2016 in support of Operation Inherent Resolve and Operation Spartan Shield.
40th CAB units at all echelons have deployed a total of 25 times since 1998 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and for missions in Bosnia and Kosovo, giving the 40th CAB the distinction of being the most deployed brigade in the California National Guard.
“The challenge before us is daunting—we cover battlespace in two different theaters, across five countries, and 13 locations, and we’re doing it with less personnel and aircraft than anyone before us,” Gronewold said during his speech. “But we are ready—this is what we do.”
Task Force Phoenix brings a formidable array of aircraft to the fight against Daesh and ISIS. It has UH-60 Black Hawk, CH-47 Chinook and AH-64 Apache helicopters in its line-up, as well unmanned aerial systems. In all, the Task Force includes National Guard units from nine states and an active-duty U.S. Army attack helicopter battalion.