By Peggy Walsh-Sarnecki, Detroit Free Press Staff Writer
Detroit Free Press
Sep 19, 2011
The 107th Fighter Squadron of the 127th Air Wing of the Michigan National Guard ships out this month for the war zone in Afghanistan in what could well be their last deployment of this war.
They fly the A10 Thunderbolt II, commonly (and affectionately) called the Warthog. The single-seater fighter plane is designed to support ground troops. When the troops get into trouble, they call in the Warthogs and their firepower to help.
"If one kid gets to come home for Christmas, it's worth it," said Maj. Erick Nodlund of Harrison Township. "We don't leave them hanging. If there's an 18-year-old with a rifle and he needs our help, it's worth it."
The 300-person unit was to deploy to Afghanistan in 2012, but that deployment was unexpectedly moved up to this month. They'll be there for about three months, which means Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's apart from their families.
Nodlund said his wife and two children, a 15-year-old son and 12-year-old daughter, are used to the deployments. The families serve, too, Nodlund said.
"My kids have been through this a couple of times already. My wife's been through this several times," Nodlund said. "They seem to understand."
President Barack Obama has given 2014 as the deadline for troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. The Air National Guard typically deploys roughly every three years, said spokesman Sgt. Dan Heaton. This could be the last deployment.
Nodlund said he feels honored to go.
"Nobody goes over there saying, 'I hate this,' " Nodlund said. "You go over there saying, 'I know how to do this.' "
This will be Nodlund's sixth deployment to the Iraq/Afghanistan war. He also served in the first Persian Gulf War when he was on active duty. When the 107th Wing was there before, troops would ask for them by name when they needed support, Nodlund said.
That's because of the experience in the Air National Guard, Nodlund said. He estimated that half of the pilots of his wing have 20,000 flying hours, the equivalent of about 20 years of experience. The group was awarded a medal for saving pinned-down Marines in the battle of Fallujah in 2004.
The 127th Wing, based out of Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Harrison Township, also includes the KC135 Stratotanker, an aerial refueling plane. Collectively, the 127th Wing has sent about 3,800 troops to the Middle East since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Most members of the national guard unit also have full-time jobs in their communities, so they must take time off from their sometimes higher-paying civilian jobs to deploy, said Nodlund, who is also an FAA inspector. When he's not deployed, Nodlund said, he has to fly at least six times each month, for about five hours each flight, in addition to other training. It's like having another 40-hour work week added on to each month, he said.
"When other people go home to have dinner, I go home, change into my uniform and come over here for duty," Nodlund said.
But he's not complaining.
"It's a volunteer military," Nodlund said. "The people elected our government, the government decided a need, that's how our system works, and I think it works really well."
Please note: Maj. Eric Nodland is an A-10C pilot assigned to the 127th Wing's 107th Fighter Squadron.
NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. -- Maj. Eric Nodland, 107th Fighter Squadron pilot, Selfridge Air National Guard Base Mich., conducts pre-flight checks in the cockpit of an A-10 Thunderbolt II before a training mission during Red Flag 11-3, Feb. 24. Red Flag is a realistic combat training exercise involving the air forces of the United States and its allies. The exercise takes place north of Las Vegas on the Nevada Test and Training Range--the U.S. Air Force's premier military training area with more than 12,000 square miles of airspace and 2.9 million acres of land. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Michael R. Holzworth) Hi-res
It's official now: 127th Wing will replace Moody's 74th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron at Kandahar in support of Operation Enduring Freedom
Selfridge Airmen Prepare for Afghanistan Deployment