Wednesday, March 10, 2010

188th Headed For Afghanistan

By Wanda Freeman
Southwest Times Record
Wednesday, March 10, 2010 8:57 AM CST

The 200 Air National Guard members who left Fort Smith on Monday will arrive at the Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan over the next few days, said the commander of the 188th Fighter Wing.

"They had a stop in Kyrgystan at 4:30 this morning," Col. Tom Anderson said Tuesday.

The airmen will be dispatched from a U.S. airbase in Kyrgystan, which is northeast of Afghanistan, for a shared rotation with the 175th Fighter Wing, an A-10 unit based in Baltimore.

"We flew our A-10s to Baltimore in January, and then when they deployed, they took part ours and part theirs over there," Anderson said.

All told, the 188th has sent 12 of its A-10 "Warthogs" to Afghanistan.

With Monday's combat deployment — the unit's first since receiving the A-10 Thunderbolt II in April 2007 — the 188th will have nearly 300 airmen, including 25 pilots, in the country in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

The group expects to be there for two months and will join about 75 others from the 188th, many of whom deployed in January for a four-month tour.

The wing's last combat deployment was in 2005, when 267 airmen and 10 F-16 Fighting Falcons went to Balad Air Base in Iraq for a three-month rotation.

After the Iraq tour, the Base Closure and Realignment Commission was on the verge of stripping the 188th of its flying mission when instead it authorized a change of mission and of planes.

The base converted from the high-flying F-16 to the low-flying A-10 and began training for its new role as a provider of close air support.

Part of the training included deployments of 300 airmen to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Ariz., in July and 200 airmen to Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada in October.

The training exercises were designed to prepare the unit for operating in a mountainous, desert environment like the one they will encounter in Afghanistan.

"This is what we've been working toward ever since Warthog Day," Anderson said, referring to April 17, 2007, when the base began receiving the A-10s. "We're in good shape to go now."


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