A Washington National Guard aviation battalion this weekend is expected to begin a mission in Kuwait supporting the final year of the U.S. military's presence in Iraq.
The 1st Battalion, 168th Aviation Regiment is saying goodbye Saturday at a ceremony at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. About 180 aviators and support personnel are in line for the deployment.
They head to Fort Hood, Texas, for the next couple of months before arriving in Kuwait this spring. They should return to Washington early next year.
U.S. forces are due to leave Iraq by the end of this year, and the Iraqi government has shown no indication of asking for a delay of the withdrawal.
The battalion previously deployed to Iraq from May 2007 to May 2008. It flies and maintains Blackhawk helicopters.