Soldiers with Company F, 1st Aviation Regiment, Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Infantry Division returned to Fort Riley Oct. 24 after a nine-month deployment to Afghanistan. The unit was welcomed home during a ceremony at Marshall Army Airfield.
While deployed, "Fenix" Company's mission was to support ground forces using the Gray Eagle Unmanned Aircraft System. It is the first Gray Eagle unit in the Army to train and deploy from its home station.
Capt. Joseph Difrancesco, commander, Co. F, said his company performed missions like surveillance, locating hidden explosive devices and engaging ground targets at the request of local ground commanders.
"We're actually one of the most popular platforms out there," he said. "It was a very good deployment for us."
The unit arrived in Afghanistan facing resistance from enemy insurgents in the area, which created challenges for the company, said Spc. Eduardo De La Cruz, Gray Eagle maintainer, Co. F.
"The mission got harder every day, but we continued to improve," he said. "We exceeded the standards and did awesome."
When the unit arrived in Afghanistan, insurgents frequently targeted their forward operation base with indirect fire, said Spc. Harvey Jackson, Gray Eagle maintainer, Co. F, 1st Avn. Regt. During the course of the deployment, Jackson said he knew his unit was having a positive impact when indirect fire declined significantly.
"Once that started dying down, you could feel it," he said.
Jackson said he hopes the impact of the unit's mission in Afghanistan reaches beyond his time in country and beyond the borders of the unit's area of operation.
"Maybe now the area overall is safer for the people that are there now," he said.