For the Colchester Sun

SOUTH BURLINGTON – More than 60 members of an air ambulance unit within the Vermont Army National Guard will be headed into “harm’s way” in Southwest Asia or the Middle East in June.

Adjutant Gen. Steven Cray announced the deployment of the Guard’s Charlie Company, Third Battalion 126 Army Aviation unit during a press conference last Friday.

“It is a daunting task but one that is met with great resolve,” said Cray, who lives in Essex.

First Sgt. Derek Laferriere, the senior enlisted soldier from Colchester, said some unit members are involved in similar health care work outside the guard through hospitals, ambulances, emergency medical services or as flight nurses. It will be his third deployment.

The unit’s special sendoff is tentatively set for June 14, but Cray said he would not reveal the specific location of the basing.

The Vermont soldiers could be there for up to a year, officials said. The Vermont Guard will also send six Black Hawk helicopters to help with medical evacuations, officials said at the Army Aviation Hangar in South Burlington.

They will be armored and are expected to fly with armed escorts when going after the injured or wounded, the Guard said.

Cray said the Guard is deploying in support of “Operation Spartan Shield,” during which Vermont will support Missouri National Guard’s 35th Combat Aviation Brigade.

“When a young man or woman decides to join the military and in this case the Vermont National Guard, they do so knowing the day will come when they will need to serve our country overseas in defense of their country,” Cray explained.

Unit commander Maj. Jamie Lewandowski said the time has come again for Vermont to serve.

“I could not be more proud to lead such a great group of men and women on this deployment,” said Lewandowski, who grew up in Milton and lives in Georgia. “Over the last few months, we have put in a lot of training time and we have pushed ourselves harder than ever.

Lewandowski was also deployed to Iraq in 2010 with the Guard.

Names of other Guard members or even a breakdown of their hometowns was not available as of Tuesday.

Cray and others did acknowledge the families of the Guard members and civilian employers play a huge role in successful deployments.

“We ask the families and employers of service members to frequently answer the call as well, and without your support, none of this is possible,” the general said.

This assignment is unrelated to a disclosure the Vermont Guard made last year that it is gearing up for a scheduled major deployment in 2019 or after.