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Deployed Guardsman keeps holiday traditions alive
Editor's note: An 11-member section of the Missouri National Guard's Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd Battalion, 135th Theater Aviation Battalion, of Lebanon, is more than halfway through its one-year deployment to Iraq in support of Operation New Dawn.
Its mission is to provide command and control, supervision, staff planning and unit level personnel service and logistical support for all units that belong to or are attached to the theater aviation battalion.
As part of its 24-hour-a-day mission, the unit performs command and control for 11 C-23 Sherpas, four C-12 Hurons and one UC-35 Cessna Citation. Through the use of these fixed-wing aircraft, the unit will provide a forward deployed aviation battalion, which provides air movement of cargo, personnel, and military/civilian dignitaries from the United States, NATO, and Iraq, throughout Iraq and the Central Command Area.
These Guardsmen also are responsible for the flight following air tasking orders, mission scheduling, and diplomatic flight clearances for all aircraft assigned to the battalion.
So far, the unit has planned and supported more than 1,400 missions, which have transported about 1.2 million pounds of cargo and more than 9,000 passengers over the course of more than 5,000 flight hours.
The following is a look into the deployment experience during the holidays of one of the unit's members.
BALAD, IRAQ -- Sgt. Cody Conner, who lives in Dexter, said he'll spend the holidays as he has every day since he deployed in April.
"I'll pretty much treat it like any other day and work my 12-hour shift," he said.
If he were at home, he'd take part is his Family traditions.
"I'd be playing bingo with my Family and then watching National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation on Christmas Eve," Conner said.
Thanks to a special Family member and Skype, a software program that enables free computer-to-computer video teleconferencing, telephone communications and instant messaging, among other things, Conner won't have to completely miss out on his Family traditions.
"My cousin sent me National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, so I will most likely watch it on Christmas Eve," he said. "All I want for Christmas is to Skype with my Family."
Family is very important to Conner.
"My whole Family supports me, as well as too many friends to name," he said. "I am very blessed to have such a close Family and so many supportive friends."
If Conner could have any Christmas wish come true, it would be to be home for the holidays, but his mission as a Soldier and a Guardsman comes first. And being part of that mission and Army tradition is important to Conner.
"When I was younger, any time I saw a Soldier it brought a great sense of pride over me and I've always wanted to be a part of that," said Conner, who has been in the Guard for four years.
While deployed, Conner said what he misses most, other than Family, is duck hunting. The most interesting thing Conner has done while deployed was spending a day touring the fourth largest city in Iraq, Erbil, with fellow Soldiers.
A 2007 graduate of Dexter High School, Conner says he hopes Missourians pray for the safe and speedy return of all service members during the holidays.
When he returns from the deployment, Conner will return to work for his brother, Jeremy Conner, who runs Jeremy Conner Farms near Essex. He also plans on making a big investment.
"I want to buy a house," he said.
For more information about the Missouri National Guard, please call 1-800-GoGuard or visit www.moguard.com.
For more information about this release, please contact Matthew J. Wilson at 573-638-9500 EXT. 4853 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.