Thursday, October 18, 2012

188th returns 45 Airmen, 10 Warthogs from Afghanistan deployment

by Maj. Heath Allen
188th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

Maj. Justin Lewis, a pilot with the 188th Fighter Wing, spends time with his family Oct. 17, 2012, after returning to Fort Smith, Ark., from a deployment to Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. Around 45 Airmen with the 188th Fighter Wing and ten of the unit's A-10 Thunderbolt II Warthogs returned to Fort Smith Oct. 17. (National Guard photo by Maj. Heath Allen / 188th Fighter Wing Public Affairs) Hi-res

10/17/2012 - FORT SMITH, Ark. -- Ten 188th Fighter Wing A-10C Thunderbolt II "Warthogs" and a C-17 Globemaster III carrying 35 Airmen with the 188th touched down in Fort Smith Oct. 17. The Airmen were returning from a deployment to Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

The deployment was part of an Air Expeditionary Forces (AEF) rotation, which the 188th shared with the Baltimore-based 175th Wing. Several 188th Airmen deployed for a total of six months. Most who returned Oct. 17 were deployed for three months. An additional 15 Airmen with the 188th will return from Bagram at a later date. Approximately 280 Airmen with the 188th returned Oct. 12 from Afghanistan.

"We're happy to have more of our Airmen home," said Col. Mark Anderson, 188th Fighter Wing commander. "Watching them arrive safely and reunite with their loved ones is something we've all been looking forward to since the day they left. We're proud of them and thank the families for their support and sacrifices as well."

Approximately 500 friends and family were on hand to welcome their Airmen home, waiving handmade signs and banners. This was the second AEF deployment for the 188th as a unit since receiving A-10s April 14, 2007.

"We flew more in three months in Afghanistan than we would in a year training in Fort Smith," said Lt. Col. Brian Burger, 188th Operations Group commander, who was among those pilots who returned Oct. 17. "We had a grueling flying schedule with some challenging weather conditions. I can't say enough about our maintenance and how hard they worked to keep our jets in the air. We didn't miss a single assigned mission and they allowed us to save a lot of lives on the ground. I couldn't be more proud of how well we performed."

The 188th's last AEF rotation transpired in 2010 when the unit deployed approximately 300 Airmen and 10 A-10Cs to Kandahar, 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.

Source (including 2 photos)

Please note: Some more related photos are released on 188th Fighter Wing's Facebook page, including this one:

[...] is interviewed by [...] Note: Pictured is A-10C 78-0646 which was part of the deployed aircraft package.

...and this one:

[...] Note: Pictured is A-10C 78-0638, but it wasn't deployed.

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