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Kentucky Air Guardsmen return from Iraq

KENTUCKY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Twenty-three Airmen from the Kentucky Air National Guard returned home from Iraq early this morning, concluding a two-month deployment during which they managed an airfield crucial to coalition military operations.

Kentucky’s 123rd Contingency Response Group deployed a total of 66 Airmen to Iraq on Jan. 4 as part of Operation Inherent Resolve, the campaign to battle the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. Those troops have been redeploying to the United States in small groups over the past two weeks. Today’s group, which landed in Louisville around 1 a.m., is the final cadre of Kentucky Air Guardsmen to return home.

While overseas, the Airmen were responsible for operating a vital logistics hub that was recaptured from ISIS forces last year and has since played a key role in supplying the campaign against the militant group. The Airmen were responsible for loading and off-loading cargo from coalition aircraft, maintaining airfield security and communications, and providing aircraft maintenance.

“Once again, the Airmen of the Kentucky Air National Guard have deployed to other side of the world to perform a mission vital to our nation’s security interests,” said Col. David Mounkes, commander of the 123rd CRG’s parent unit, the Louisville-based 123rd Airlift Wing. “As always, our Airmen executed the task in a flawless manner, moving many, many tons of supplies and equipment necessary to support the fight against ISIS while operating from an austere location. I could not be more proud of their performance.”

The 123rd Contingency Response Group is the only unit of its kind in the Air National Guard and just one of five CRGs in the entire U.S. Air Force. CRGs are comprised of Airmen from dozens of specialties who can deploy on short notice to establish and operate air fields from austere locations anywhere in the world. The units bring everything necessary to stand up operations in a matter of hours, including communications, power generation, cargo-handling equipment, security forces and air traffic control capability.

The Kentucky unit has been globally engaged in a variety of missions since being established eight years ago. In 2014, the group deployed to Senegal to establish and operate an Aerial Port of Debarkation and Intermediate Staging Base in support of Operation United Assistance, the international effort to fight the largest Ebola outbreak in history. The unit’s Airmen processed 193 aircraft and 1,200 short tons of cargo, including blood, plasma and tactical vehicles during the two-month deployment. Four years earlier, the group was one of two Air Force contingency response units to establish overseas airlift hubs supporting earthquake-recovery efforts in Haiti, managing the delivery of hundreds of tons of relief supplies into the Dominican Republic for subsequent trucking to Haiti.