Kentucky Air Guard deploys two aircraft, 70 Airmen to Persian Gulf region
Story by Maj. Dale Greer, 123rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs
KENTUCKY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Airlift Wing deployed 70 Airmen and two C-130 aircraft to the Persian Gulf region July 2, in support of operations Enduring Freedom and New Dawn.
The deploying Airmen, who include aircrew members, maintenance troops and support staff, will operate from an undisclosed air base in Southwest Asia, flying troops and cargo across the U.S. Central Command Area of Responsibility as part of the 386th Air Expeditionary Wing.
Kentucky’s Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. Edward W. Tonini, said the deploying Airmen are among the most experienced and highly trained personnel in the U.S. military.
“I know one thing categorically about the people sitting here in this room: You are ready to do the job we’ve asked you to do,” Tonini said during a briefing held July 2 for the Airmen and their family members. “It will be a difficult job, and I want thank you for stepping up for this mission. I especially want to thank the family members for what you do, by taking on additional responsibilities at home so these Airmen can deploy. We couldn’t do this mission without your support.”
About half of the Airmen will remain overseas for four months. The other half will return home in two months, after being replaced by a second rotation of about 30 Kentucky Air Guardsmen. In all, approximately 100 members of the 123rd Airlift wing are expected to participate in the deployment. They will operate in Southwest Asia with other Air Guardsmen and active-duty Air Force troops from Wyoming and Missouri.
Lt. Col. Shawn Dawley, a Kentucky Air Guard C-130 pilot wh0 will serve as commander of the deployed flying squadron, said his Airmen will play a vital role in airlift operations across Northern Africa and Southwest Asia.
“We’ll be supporting the Central Command Area of Responsibility, which goes from Egypt in the West all the way to Afghanistan in the East,” he said. “As a tactical airlift unit, our job is to support the warfighter on the ground, whether we’re doing an assault landing on an unimproved strip using night-vision goggles, flying aeromedical evacuation missions across the theater or conducting combat airdrop and resupply sorties to Soldiers in the fight.”
This mission marks the wing’s seventh major deployment to CENTCOM since 2003. Previous missions sent hundreds of Kentucky Air Guard forces to multiple locations in Afghanistan, Iraq and Saudi Arabia.
In 2007, for example, more than 210 wing members deployed to Afghanistan to airdrop thousands of tons of vital equipment and supplies to forward-deployed troops who were in direct contact with the enemy, navigating some of the most rugged, high-altitude terrain anywhere in the world.
Nearly 300 Kentucky Air Guardsmen returned to Afghanistan in 2009 for the same mission, transporting 20,000 troops and 6,000 tons of cargo across the theater of operations.
Most recently, about 160 Kentucky Airmen broke airlift records when they airdropped or transported an unprecedented amount of cargo and personnel in support of Operation Enduring Freedom while deployed to Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, from October 2010 to January 2011.
Since 9/11, more than 14,000 Kentucky National Guard Soldiers and Airmen have mobilized in support of the Global War on Terror. The Kentucky National Guard currently has about 400 troops deployed worldwide.