EVANSDALE — Iowa’s Bravest, the organization which supported local troops during various overseas military deployments over the past 15 years, is redoubling its efforts with a larger group of local Iowa Army National Guard soldiers now headed to the Middle East.
The group is seeking additional donations to purchase and assemble “appreciation boxes” of nonperishable, food, toiletries, games and other items to be distributed to deployed troops this holiday season.
Organizer Julie Ehlers said the group was preparing to support some 35 locally based Guard soldiers who deployed last month.
“But now we have an additional 105 to support too,” Ehlers said. “We are asking for donations from our community in order to send appreciation boxes to our troops.
“The community support for our troops, I really like that,” Ehlers said of the help with past efforts. “I’m not looking forward to them going over, but it’s nice to be able to support them again.”
The group needs monetary donations to cover postage and items for the boxes. Checks can be made out to Iowa’s Bravest and can be mailed to the Evansdale AMVETS, 706 Colleen Ave., Evansdale, 50707.
Donations of individually wrapped snack items, small gifts and letters of support also will be accepted.
Ehlers said the group is redoubling its efforts and putting an additional appeal to the community after it was announced last week a group of 100 Waterloo-based Iowa Army National Guard soldiers — part of a 500-soldier force from four states including 390 from Iowa — are being deployed to provide aviation support for the U.S. Central Command in the Middle East.
It is the largest overseas deployment since more than 3,300 Iowa Army National Guard soldiers, including the Waterloo-headquartered 1st Battalion, 133rd Infantry regiment, were deployed to Afghanistan in 2010, Guard officials said. Iowa’s Bravest was heavily involved in supporting that deployment as well as earlier ones to Iraq. The group also previously supported other National Guard, Reserve and active duty personnel on deployment to Iraq, Afghanistan and in conjunction with Operation Enduring Freedom.
A sendoff for the 100 to-be-deployed Waterloo soldiers is set for 2 p.m. Sept. 29 at the West Gymnasium on the University of Northern Iowa campus. Other sendoffs are set that day for soldiers deploying from Davenport, Muscatine and Boone. All are elements of the Iowa Guard’s 248th Aviation Support Battalion.
The soldiers will go to Fort Hood, Texas, for additional training before being sent overseas. Such deployments typically last about a year.
“The battalion’s mission is to provide aviation maintenance and logistical support to a combat aviation brigade, which includes aircraft diagnostics, repair, maintenance, refueling, medical support, supply support activities, ground maintenance and testing,” officials said.
Units within the 248th ASB have previously mobilized in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in 2001-02, 2003 and 2004; Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2008-09; and as part of a peacekeeping force in Kosovo in 2013-14.
In August, 35 soldiers with Detachment 1, Company C, 2-211th General Support Aviation Battalion in Waterloo also were deployed. The Iowa Guard has a helicopter air aviation support facility on Big Rock Road north of the Waterloo Regional Airport
Iowa’s Bravest has a Facebook page, and Ehlers can be contacted at 240-5525 or firstname.lastname@example.org.