Nearly 300 Fort Carson soldiers departed for Europe on Monday to support the European Command's Atlantic Resolve mission and the U.S. Central Command's combatant commander mission requirements.
The 4th Combat Aviation Brigade, 4th Infantry Division became the third aviation brigade deployed for this mission, following the 1st Air Cavalry Brigade of Fort Hood, Texas, and the 10th Combat Aviation Brigade of Fort Drum, N.Y.
The deployment is expected to last nine months, with more soldiers being deployed over the next several weeks, said Col. Scott Gallaway, brigade commander.
"We're just excited to get there, get integrated, start the transition process and assume the mission," Gallaway said.
Deployments to Europe are becoming increasingly common as the Army shifts to a stance reminiscent of the Cold War to deter Russian aggression.
The change began in 2014 after Russian President Vladimir Putin's invasion of neighboring Ukraine.
Fort Carson's 4,000-member brigade combat team and other soldiers since have traveled to Europe for drills to showcase U.S. military might in training exercises while building the forces of the newest North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies near the Russian frontier.
"It's just one of those very unique opportunities where you're going to work with forces from five or six different countries," Gallaway said.
"That's a unique opportunity that I've never had in my 22 years of doing this."
A third of the departing soldiers were on their first deployment.
Among the first-timers was 1st Lt. Katrina Meehan.
Although she said she never expected her first deployment would be to Europe, her eyes - the same Army green as her uniform - lit up when she said she would join her husband in Germany since she transferred units to deploy with him.
"We get to go through the challenges a deployment brings together," Meehan said. "It makes a world of difference."
Command Sgt. Maj. Marty Books said the deploying soldiers showed a range of emotions.
"Some of them are nervous because this may be the first time they've left the United States," Books said. "But some are cautiously excited because they know that there's a lot of new stuff that they're going to get to see."
While some soldiers are eager to experience European culture, he said, the logistics of a nine-month deployment are difficult.
"They're trained and ready to do their mission. But you know as well as I do, when you pack to go on vacation, you always forget something," Books said.
"We're about to jump on a plane for nine hours, so running home to get (something) is not going to be an option."