BANGOR — Members of the 126th Aviation Medevac unit, who left Maine a year ago for a deployment to Kuwait, stepped back onto U.S. soil on Friday, Maj. Michael Steinbuchel, spokesman for the Maine Army National Guard, said Tuesday.
The 120 or so citizen soldiers of the Bangor-based unit, nicknamed the “Black Bears,” are at Fort Hood in Texas for their post-deployment debriefing, Steinbuchel said.
“We make a concerted effort to make sure our soldiers are ready to be home,” Steinbuchel said.
Members of the unit, who become active duty soldiers while deployed overseas, have a lot of paperwork to do and are briefed about the signs of post-traumatic stress disorder and other subjects before they return home.
When the 126th will return to Maine in still up in the air, but it should be soon, the major said.
The unit airlifted injured soldiers, military service dogs and civilians using Black Hawk helicopters, a Maine Army National Guard spokesman said previously. Maj. Mark Stevens, a 1987 Kennebunk High School graduate, was the unit’s commander in Kuwait.
The 126th, which partnered with the Oregon-based 158th Aviation Medevac unit during the deployment, was attached to the 35th Combat Aviation Brigade while serving at Camp Buehring, Kuwait.
The unit returns minus one member — Staff Sgt. Jessica Wing of Glenburn.
Wing, a 23-year veteran helicopter mechanic, died in Kuwait in a noncombat-related incident on Aug. 27, 2012. The cause of her death has not been released.
Wing was a dedicated soldier who put others first, according to those who knew her. With two decades of experience fixing and maintaining helicopters — Black Hawk, Huey, Apache and others — she was the unit’s go-to person, Staff Sgt. Sean Miller said in the days after his longtime friend’s death.
“She was very dedicated to the Army, her job and to her friends,” he said. “My heart is filled with sorrow.”
At her funeral on Sept. 8, Staff Sgt. Christopher Stafford, a longtime friend and colleague, said Wing was “strong and righteous, yet noble and humble.”
She was buried at the Maine Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Augusta.