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Wing begins multiple deployments to Germany

Fifty-one members of the 123rd Airlift Wing board a Kentucky Air Guard C-130 on the
base flightline Nov. 26. The Airmen are bound for Ramstein Air Base, Germany, from
which they will fly airlift sorties to locations in Europe, Africa and Southwest Asia. (Tech. Sgt. Philip Speck/KyANG)

Fifty-one members of the 123rd Airlift Wing board a Kentucky Air Guard C-130 on the base flightline Nov. 26. The Airmen are bound for Ramstein Air Base, Germany, from which they will fly airlift sorties to locations in Europe, Africa and Southwest Asia. (Tech. Sgt. Philip Speck/KyANG)

KENTUCKY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Louisville, Ky. -- Two Kentucky Air Guard C-130s and 51 Guarsdmen from the 123rd Airlift Wing deployed to Ramstein Air Base, Germany, on Nov. 26 in support of Operation Joint Enterprise. 

The airmen will fly airlift missions across Europe, Africa and Southwest Asia, including sorties into Iraq and Afghanistan, said Lt. Col. Mark Heiniger, commander of the Kentucky Air Guard's 165th Airlift Squadron. 

The deployment constitutes the first wave of Kentucky aircrews, maintenance personnel and support troops who are slated to participate in the mission through March 7, when the wing's role is expected to conclude.

Two additional Kentucky C-130s and six more rotations of KyANG Airmen are scheduled to leave for Germany in the next three months, bringing the total number of deploying
wing troops to about 360. 

Each deployment rotation is scheduled to last approximately two weeks, Colonel Heiniger said. Operation Joint Enterprise is similar to several other airlift missions
supported by Kentucky Air Guardsmen in the past decade. 

It grew out of the now-defunct, Ramstein-based Operation Joint Forge, which was created in the mid- 1990s to fly troops and supplies into Bosnia-Herzegovina in support of U.S. military operations there. That mission eventually expanded to support operations across Europe and, more recently, activities in Africa and the Central Command Area of Responsibility, which includes Iraq and Afghanistan. 

The Kentucky Air Guard has now sent Airmen and aircraft to Germany more than a half-dozen times since the 1990s to support Operation Joint Enterprise and its predecessor campaigns, each time staffing the deployments with an all-volunteer cadre of troops, according to Col. Mark Kraus, commander of the 123rd Airlift Wing.

The latest mission is no exception. "Everyone who is deploying for this mission volunteered for the job," Colonel Kraus noted. "Some of our people will even be deployed over the Christmas holiday. 

"I think that says something about the caliber of people we have in the wing. Our Airmen continue to step up and volunteer for missions any time they're needed, anywhere in
the world. 

"That's a truly remarkable level of dedication, and it's the right thing to do. I couldn't be more proud of them for their commitment to the mission."