PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Hundreds of families gathered at the 182nd Airlift Wing hangar in Peoria to send off nearly 200 soldiers to deployment.
The mobilization ceremony for the 106th Aviation Regiment and the the 935th Aviation Support Battalion took place Tuesday morning as the soldiers readied for deployment to the US Central Command Area of Responsibility.
The 106th is based in Peoria and the 935th is based out of Kankakee.
Among those in attendance at Tuesday’s ceremony were Gov. JB Pritzker and Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton.
“The service that you and your families give every day to serve the people of Illinois and to defend this nation remain a source of inspiration and respect for all of Illinois,” said Pritzker at the ceremony.
The soldiers will be providing aviation support to US Forces in the Middle East.
Jason Celletti, Commander of the 106 Assault Helicopter Battalion, said the soldiers are fully trained for their new duties using the brand new Victor Black Hawk helicopters.
“We’ve had to do all this training,” said Celletti. “And while we did the training to get to where we’ve got, we also had to the deployment training as well. So I’m so proud of the soldiers and all they’ve accomplished this year.”
According to Celletti, the new Black Hawk now has a digital cockpit, which he describes as having four iPads.
“You can actually plug through all of your maps and your data and get to where you need to go a lot easier than the old days of using steam gauges,” said Celletti.
20-year-old Derek McLaughlin is anxious but excited to start his deployment journey. He will be providing avionics work for the helicopters.
“I would say I’m a little nervous considering it’s my first deployment, but I know people around me have my back,” McLaughlin told WMBD. “Communication is the most positive thing that can have around here to support each other in the hard parts of our time out there.”
McLaughlin’s mother Patricia said she is proud of her son, but she’ll miss him and hope that he stays safe.