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Kentucky Air Guard begins deployment to Afghanistan

Air Guardsmen prepare to board a C-130 en route to Afghanistan on March 18 at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky. The Airmen will be providing airlift services as part of Operation Enduring Freedom through May 19. (USAF photo by Tech. Sgt. Dennis Flora.)

Air Guardsmen prepare to board a C-130 en route to Afghanistan on March 18 at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky. The Airmen will be providing airlift services as part of Operation Enduring Freedom through May 19. (USAF photo by Tech. Sgt. Dennis Flora.)

Kentucky Air Guardsmen board a C-130 en route to Afghanistan on March 18. The Louisville, Ky.-based Airmen will be providing airlift services as part of Operation Enduring Freedom through May 19. (USAF photo by Capt. Dale Greer)

Kentucky Air Guardsmen board a C-130 en route to Afghanistan on March 18. The Louisville, Ky.-based Airmen will be providing airlift services as part of Operation Enduring Freedom through May 19. (USAF photo by Capt. Dale Greer)

Kentucky Assistant Adjutant General for Air Brig. Gen. Mark Kraus (second from right), wishes Kentucky Air Guardsmen well March 18 as they board a C-130 en route to Afghanistan. The Airmen will be providing airlift services as part of Operation Enduring Freedom through May 19. (USAF photo by Capt. Dale Greer).

Kentucky Assistant Adjutant General for Air Brig. Gen. Mark Kraus (second from right), wishes Kentucky Air Guardsmen well March 18 as they board a C-130 en route to Afghanistan. The Airmen will be providing airlift services as part of Operation Enduring Freedom through May 19. (USAF photo by Capt. Dale Greer).

KENTUCKY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- The first 34 of approximately 200 Kentucky Air National Guardsmen began deploying overseas this morning to provide airlift services in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

The Airmen, assigned to the 123rd Airlift Wing here, departed for Afghanistan aboard a Kentucky Air Guard C-130 Hercules transport aircraft at about 9 a.m.

Deploying personnel include pilots, navigators, loadmasters, maintenance personnel and various support troops. Once in Afghanistan, they will join an advance team of Kentucky Airmen already in place to fly airlift missions in the Central Command Area of Operations, which includes Afghanistan, Iraq and Northern Africa.

Additional Kentucky Airmen and aircraft will be deployed through March 30. About a dozen Airmen from other wings also will participate in the operation, including members of Air National Guard units in West Virginia, Tennessee and Idaho.

The Kentucky Air Guard is expected to complete its participation in the airlift mission by May 19.

"The men and women of the Kentucky Air Guard continue to demonstrate their desire to go anywhere in the world they're needed, and do whatever job our nation asks of them," said Col. Greg Nelson, commander of the 123rd Airlift Wing. "I could not be more proud of our troops and their dedication to the mission."

Since Sept. 11, 2001, more than 10,000 members of the Kentucky Army and Air National Guard have deployed worldwide in the Global War on Terror.

This latest mission marks the 123rd Airlift Wing's second major deployment to Afghanistan since 2007 and its fourth major deployment to CENTCOM since 2003. Previous missions sent hundreds of Kentucky Air Guard forces to multiple locations in Afghanistan, Iraq and Saudi Arabia.

During the 2007 deployment, Kentucky Air Guard troops airlifted thousands of personnel and thousands of tons of cargo to locations across CENTCOM, often airdropping vital supplies to troops who were in direct contact with the enemy while navigating over some of the most rugged, high-altitude terrain anywhere in the world.

While major deployments like these comprise the majority of the wing's contributions to the Global War on Terror, smaller numbers of Airmen from the Kentucky Air National Guard have served on active duty almost continually since 9/11, performing a wide variety of overseas missions nearly every day of the year.