February 21, 2015 (by Maj. Dale Greer) - The first 37 of more than 110 Kentucky Air National Guardsmen departed for deployment to an undisclosed air base in the Persian Gulf region.
More than 35 members of the 123rd AW depart the Kentucky ANGB in Louisville, on February 21, 2015, aboard C-130H #91-1232 from 165 AS for a four-month deployment to the Persian Gulf region in support of Operation Freedom Sentinel. [ANG photo by Maj. Dale Greer]
The Airmen left aboard a Kentucky Air Guard C-130 Hercules for a four-month mission supporting coalition military operations in the United States Central Command Area of Responsibility, which includes the Persian Gulf, Northern Africa and Afghanistan.
The Airmen, who include aircrew members, aircraft maintenance personnel and support staff, will fly troops and cargo as needed across the region in support of Operation Freedom Sentinel, said Lt. Col. Matt Quenichet, a Kentucky Air Guard navigator and mission commander.
Col. Barry Gorter, commander of the Kentucky Air Guard's 123rd Airlift Wing, thanked the deploying Airmen for their commitment to the mission.
"I know that you're leaving here today ready to perform this mission because of the unsurpassed level of professionalism and excellence you display every day," Gorter told the Airmen. "I'm proud of you, and I'm humbled to be you wing commander."
He also praised family members and community partners for their continued support over the next four months.
"Our Airmen are leaving family and friends behind while they deploy overseas for this important mission, and many are taking leave from full-time civilian jobs," Gorter noted. "Those family members and civilian employers will have to take on extra responsibilities while their citizen-Airmen are deployed, and we deeply appreciate that.
"Our Airmen simply could not perform this mission without the full support of their families, employers and coworkers, all of whom are our full partners in the defense of America."
A second group of Kentucky Airmen is scheduled to depart from the Kentucky Air National Guard Base next week aboard a 123rd Airlift Wing C-130, while a third rotation will deploy in late April. The mission is expected to be complete in early July.
The deployment marks the sixth time in the past 12 years that the Kentucky Air Guard has sent its aircraft, aircrews and maintenance personnel to support U.S. military operations in the U.S. Central Command AOR. The wing deployed aviation assets there in 2003, 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2012, operating from multiple undisclosed locations and Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan.
The wing's non-aviation personnel also have been heavily engaged around the world since Sept. 11, 2001, logging thousands of deployments to dozens of overseas locations, including Iraq and Afghanistan.
In October, more than 70 of the wing's Airmen deployed to Africa to support Operation United Assistance, the international effort to fight the worst Ebola outbreak in history.