Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Remaining group of 188th Airmen return from deployment to Kandahar

by Capt. Heath Allen
Arkansas National Guard Public Affairs Officer

5/25/2010 - FORT SMITH, Ark. -- The long, tiresome wait was finally over. Approximately 50 Airmen from the Arkansas Air National Guard's 188th Fighter Wing returned Tuesday, May 25, from an Aerospace Expeditionary Force (AEF) deployment to Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan.

The group touched down at Fort Smith Regional Airport at 4:02 p.m. in a Boeing C-17 Globemaster III from Charleston Air Force Base, S.C.

The AEF mission was the 188th's first combat deployment as a unit with A-10 Thunderbolt II "Warthogs" since it officially began a transition to A-10s from F-16C Falcons on April 14, 2007.

"We worked very hard to prepare for this deployment and many sacrifices were made not just by the Airmen but by their families as well," said Col. Tom Anderson, 188th Fighter Wing commander. "It was a group effort and all of our Guardsmen performed admirably while deployed to Kandahar. It was an important mission and we accomplished it with pride. Most importantly, though, we're glad to have everyone home safe."

The 50 Guardsmen with the 188th were the final group with the unit to return from Kandahar and closed the chapter on AEF 2010. Approximately 275 Airmen with the 188th were deployed to Kandahar in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

"We're very glad to be home," said Master Sgt. Jay Greer, an A-10 crew chief with the 188th. "We had a successful deployment and the guys all worked hard. We have a great group of people in this unit and we all support each other. We all love our jobs but it feels great to be back home."

The 188th shared the four-month AEF rotation with the 175th Wing, an A-10 Air National Guard unit based in Baltimore, Md. While in theater the 188th was attached to the 451st Expeditionary Wing at Kandahar Airfield. The 188th's A-10s have been in theatre for more than four months.

More than 200 Airmen returned from Kandahar May 17 and a group of 10 aviators piloting 10 Warthogs arrived at the 188th May 22. The group that returned Tuesday left Kandahar May 15 but airflow issues prevented it from returning with the A-10s and pilots last Saturday.

"If feels like it took us forever to get home," said Master Sgt. Michael Kolb. "We tried to stay positive and thinking about going home and being with our families made it easier. I'm very happy to be back home. I'm looking forward to taking a few days off and spending time with my family."

While deployed, members of the 188th maintained and repaired A-10s, flew countless sorties, conducted numerous inspections and marched to the cadence of an intense, 24-hour operations tempo.

The A-10 mission in southern Afghanistan is to fly close-air support in response to ground troops who may be in contact with the enemy, or to escort convoys in particularly hostile areas. When not supporting ground troops, A-10s patrol designated sectors and provide aerial reconnaissance on locations of interest to ground commanders.

More than 50 members of the 188th left Jan. 8, 2010, and spent the entire four-month AEF rotation in Kandahar. An additional 225 Guardsmen joined them in early March for the 188th's official two-month portion of the rotation.

Before this mission, the 188th's last AEF rotation transpired in 2005 when the unit deployed 267 Airmen and 10 F-16s to Balad Air Base, Iraq, in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

For more information on the 188th Fighter Wing please visit You can also find us on Facebook:

Master Sgt. Danny Staggs, right, shakes hands with Col. Tom Anderson, 188th Fighter Wing commander, May 25, 2010, at the 188th. Staggs was the first Airmen to depart a Boeing C-17 Globemaster III based out of Charleston AFB, South Carolina. Approximately 50 Airmen from the Arkansas Air National Guard's 188th Fighter Wing returned Tuesday, May 25, from an Aerospace Expeditionary Force (AEF) deployment to Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Master Sgt. Dennis Brambl / 188th Fighter Wing Public Affairs) Hi-res


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