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History of the 16th Combat Aviation Group

Photo by Ingrid Barrentine Command Sgt. Maj. Lucio "Niko" Vandevoorde, right, and Col. Robert Werthman uncase the 16th CAB colors Aug. 1 during a change of command and activation ceremony at Gray Army Airfield. The aviation brigade relocated from Ft. W

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The 16th Combat Aviation Group was formed in January 1968. Provisionally established in October 2005 at Fort Wainwright, Alaska, Task Force 49 was formally established in February 2006. In October 2009, TF 49 was redesignated as 16th CAB, named after the famed 16th Combat Aviation Group from the Vietnam era.

Beginning in July 2007, TF49 had company elements continuously deployed for 31 consecutive months in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The 16th CAB's first operational deployment was in August 2010 to provide humanitarian assistance to Pakistan. In February 2011, two of the brigade's elements deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. Earlier this year, 1st Battalion, 229th Attack Reconnaissance Battalion (currently stationed at Fort Hood, Texas) and 6th Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment (Fort Wainwright) deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan respectively.

The 1-229 ARS will redeploy in spring 2012 and will relocate to JBLM within 90 days of returning. The move will bring with it several Apache helicopters. Colonel Robert Dickerson, 16th CAB commander, said by summer 2012 JBLM will have an additional 44 helicopters - Kiowa Warriors, Blackhawks and Apaches - along with another 1,100 Soldiers.

"The gates have opened," Dickerson said. "We will start getting personnel over the next 90 days and continue throughout the year."

It won't be uncommon for the community to also see Chinooks and medevac helicopters, flying to JBLM for collective training to prepare for eventual deployment. Dickerson described the relationship between 16th CAB elements on JBLM and at Fort Wainwright as "mutually supportive."

"I have aircraft here that can do air-to-ground integration with units in Alaska," he said. "The Chinooks up there will actually be supporting units here at I Corps. Quite frankly, this is how we operate everyday in Iraq and Afghanistan."

Dickerson said he is excited about the future of 16th CAB and its place in the JBLM community.

"A lot of people have wanted an aviation brigade here, and for all the right reasons - so that it could support all the units that are deploying. And although it's more people and more helicopters, its' a lot more contract maintenance and fuel," Dickerson said. "It's not only a great thing for the Army units here, but for the community as a whole."

By the time 16th CAB is completely in place, there will a total of 140 helicopters on the installation. The tally includes those belonging to the Washington National Guard and other units on JBLM.

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