EDEN PRAIRIE (AP) -- A ceremonial send-off is being held for 700 Minnesota National Guard members headed for Western Asia.

The St. Paul-based 34th Expeditionary Combat Aviation Brigade will provide Army helicopter, airplane and drone support to U.S. and coalition forces. The unit flies Black Hawk, Chinook and Apache helicopters and twin-engine turboprops for reconnaissance, transportation and medical evacuations.

Friday's ceremony is being held at Grace Church in Eden Prairie.

Aircraft mechanic Deonte Haynes is among the hundreds of guard members deploying. Haynes says he's excited to go and serve his country. Haynes says he's been trying to spend a lot of time with his wife, Jamira, and five children ahead of his deployment. They plan to stay connected by journaling, video conferencing and old-fashioned snail mail.

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