Tuesday, March 9, 2010

200 Airmen With 188th Leave Fort Smith for Afghanistan

Russell Jones, Reporter
8:03 PM CST, March 8, 2010

More than 200 airmen with the 188th fighter wing are now on their way to Afghanistan.

The airmen loaded up early Monday morning, after their families and friends wished them well at the 188th's base in Fort Smith. It's the first combat deployment for the fighter wing with their new aircraft, the A-10 Thunderbolt II "Warthog".

"It's been a really busy schedule, but it's all come together and we're ready to go," said Gaylon Robbins, an aircraft mechanic.

"We've run into some obstacles, some wing cracks," said Col. Tom Anderson, the wing's commander. "We had to convert our A-10 'A' models to A-10 'C' models, and we had to learn how to fly those once we had those all modified, so we've been anxiously awaiting this day."

Their airmen's families are now the ones who will be anxiously waiting for their family members to come back home. Some told 5NEWS they've thought of special plans to help count the days.

"We've made little things at home, little countdown calendars, and we have the little daddy dolls for both of our girls," said the wife of Ryan Carter, one of the A-10 pilots with the 188th.

"We're on a weight-loss program," said Robbins' wife. "We're trying to keep up with him, because we think he's going to be a bit smaller when he comes back."

During their two-month deployment, the 188th will be supporting ground operations in eastern Afghanistan with the help of another wing of Warthogs from an Air Guard unit in Baltimore.

This is Ryan Carter's first combat deployment with the 188th, and he said he's ready to get back into the cockpit.

"I've got a sweet little family here, but we're going to go, get the work done and come on back," he said.

"It'll be tough, but I'm glad he's finally going to have the opportunity to do what he's been training for years," said his wife. "I can live with that."

Associated video, embedded from kfsm.com:


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