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Montana unit to help in air

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HELENA, Mont. ? A Montana Army National Guard unit will lead the Defense Department's helicopter support task force during the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, the Guard says.

The Helena-based 1st Battalion of the 189th Combat Support Aviation group will be in charge of a force comprising both active-duty and National Guard forces providing security patrols in the skies around Olympic venues, the battalion's commander, Lt. Col. Dave McGuire of Helena, said in a news release.

About 100 members from the Helena area, along with two UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters, will be joined by about 200 Guard members and four other Blackhawk helicopters assigned to the battalion's subordinate units in Arizona and Idaho.

Lt. Col. Joe Foster, a Guard spokesman, said the assignment is unique because it is rare for the Guard to be given commanding assignments of units that include active-duty personnel.

The helicopters and 50 of the 1st/189th's members were leaving for Salt Lake City this weekend. The others will arrive later.

Opening ceremonies for the Olympics begin Feb. 8.

The 1st/189th was selected as the 2000 National Guard aviation unit of the year by the Army Aviation Association of America.