by Maj. Heath Allen
188th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
3/30/2012 - FORT SMITH, Ark. -- The family members of Airmen with the 188th Fighter Wing are already counting the days until their loved ones return home.
Approximately 75 Airmen with the 188th Maintenance Group departed Fort Smith March 29 for Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. The Airmen will be deployed approximately six months.
The deployment is part of an Air Expeditionary Forces (AEF) rotation, which the 188th is sharing with the Baltimore-based 175th Wing. The 188th Airmen will supplement the 175th during its portion of the rotation.
"It's never easy for families to watch as their loved ones deploy into a combat zone," said Col. Tom Anderson, 188th Fighter Wing commander. "We appreciate the sacrifice and dedication that our Airmen make and also the sacrifices made by those loved ones left behind. We're confident they will make their wing, families and communities proud. We anxiously await their safe return."
More 188th Airmen will deploy later this summer when the 188th's official portion of the AEF rotation will begin. In total during this AEF rotation, the 188th will deploy approximately 400 Airmen to Afghanistan. They will return this fall.
Last week, the 188th deployed a group of A-10C Thunder bolt II "Warthogs" to the 175th in preparation for onward movement. Multiple 188th aircraft will remain in Baltimore and a number of those aircraft will deploy to Afghanistan.
This is the second AEF deployment for the 188th as a unit since receiving A-10s April 14, 2007. The 188th's last AEF rotation transpired in 2010 when the unit deployed approximately 300 Airmen and 10 A-10Cs to Kandahar, Afghanistan.
While the 188th prepares year-round for its mission, it has conducted an intense training regimen in the past six months in preparation for its AEF rotation. The 188th deployed approximately 300 operations, maintenance and support personnel along with multiple A-10Cs to participate in Operation Snowbird at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., Feb. 11-26, 2012.
The deployment to Davis-Monthan afforded the 188th with the opportunity to conduct training and gain operational experience in a mountainous, desert terrain, which closely mimics the climate and conditions in Afghanistan.
The A-10 mission in 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.