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Kentucky Air Guard supports Patriot missile movement to Turkey

ALTUS AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. – Members of the 97th Air Mobility Wing, Kentucky Air Guard Contingency Response Group, 31st Air Defense Artillery Army Brigade, Fort Sill, Okla. and 167th Airlift Wing, Martinsburg, W. Va., unload an M984 Wrecker from a 167th AW C-5 Galaxy on the Altus AFB flight line, Jan. 4, 2013. The units joined forces to deploy batteries of Patriot-air-defense systems, more than two million pounds of equipment and about 300 personnel from 3-2 Air Defense Artillery Battalion to Turkey in support of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Levin Boland / Released)

Members of the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Contingency Response Group join with Airmen from the 97th Air Mobility Wing at Altus Air Force Base, Okla., the 31st Air Defense Artillery Army Brigade from Fort Sill, Okla., and the 167th Airlift Wing from Martinsburg, W. Va., to unload an M984 Wrecker from a 167th AW C-5 Galaxy on the Altus flight line Jan. 4, 2013. The units teamed up to deploy batteries of Patriot air-defense systems, more than two million pounds of equipment and over 300 personnel to Turkey in support of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Levin Boland)

ALTUS AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. – Airman Mikal Moore, Kentucky Air Guard Contingency Response Group aerial porter, chains down an M983 Truck inside a C-5 Galaxy from the 167th Airlift Wing, Martinsburg, W. Va., on the Altus AFB flight line, Jan. 4, 2013. Members of the 97th Air Mobility Wing, Kentucky Air Guard CRG, 31st Air Defense Artillery Army Brigade, Fort Sill, Okla. and 167th Airlift Wing, Martinsburg, W. Va., joined forces to deploy batteries of Patriot-air-defense systems, more than two million pounds of equipment and about 300 personnel from 3-2 Air Defense Artillery Battalion to Turkey in support of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Levin Boland / Released)

Airman Mikal Moore, a Contingency Response Group aerial porter from Kentucky Air National Guard, chains down an M983 Truck inside a C-5 Galaxy on the Altus Air Force Base flight line Jan. 4, 2013. Members of the 97th Air Mobility Wing; the Kentucky Air Guard; the 31st Air Defense Artillery Army Brigade, Fort Sill, Okla; and the 167th Airlift Wing, Martinsburg, W. Va., joined forces to deploy batteries of Patriot air-defense systems, more than two million pounds of equipment and over 300 personnel to Turkey in support of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Levin Boland)

Army Col. Michael Morrissey, commander of the 31st Air Defense Artillery Battalion, Fort Sill, Okla., presents Staff Sgt. Timothy McNary of the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Contingency Response Group with the Army Achievement Medal during a ceremony at Altus Air Force Base, Okla., Jan. 9, 2013. Airmen from Altus; the Kentucky Air National Guard; Charleston Air Force Base, S.C.; Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.; Travis Air Force Base, Calif.; Joint Base San Antonio, Texas; and Westover Air Reserve Base, Mass., provided the timely and safe deployment of Patriot missile batteries and more than two million pounds of equipment to Turkey in support of NATO efforts to augment Turkey’s self-defense capabilities. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Klynne Pearl Serrano)

Army Col. Michael Morrissey, commander of the 31st Air Defense Artillery Battalion, Fort Sill, Okla., presents Staff Sgt. Timothy McNary of the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Contingency Response Group with the Army Achievement Medal during a ceremony at Altus Air Force Base, Okla., Jan. 9, 2013. Airmen from Altus; the Kentucky Air National Guard; Charleston Air Force Base, S.C.; Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.; Travis Air Force Base, Calif.; Joint Base San Antonio, Texas; and Westover Air Reserve Base, Mass., provided the timely and safe deployment of Patriot missile batteries and more than two million pounds of equipment to Turkey in support of NATO efforts to augment Turkey’s self-defense capabilities. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Klynne Pearl Serrano)

KENTUCKY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Members of the Kentucky Air National Guard's 123rd Airlift Wing played a key role in the movement of three Patriot missile batteries and more than two million pounds of support equipment to Turkey earlier this month.

Twenty Airmen from the wing's 123rd Contingency Response Group, augmented by members of the 123rd Aerial Port Flight, traveled to Oklahoma where they joined forces with active-duty Airmen from the 97th Air Mobility Wing, the U.S. Army's 31st Air Defense Artillery Army Brigade and several other units to deploy the Patriots in support of Turkish self-defense capabilities, said Maj. Ash Groves, who served as commander of the Kentucky element.

Grove's team inspected the outbound cargo for shipment, devised C-5 and C-17 aircraft load plans, and directed the loading of 21 aircraft with equipment and more than 300 personnel in just six days, he said.

The operation followed U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta's Dec. 14 order to deploy the batteries in an effort to de-escalate tensions along the Turkey-Syrian border while demonstrating NATO solidarity.

Kentucky's role began Dec. 26 when a four-person Joint Inspection Team deployed to Fort Sill, Okla., to perform an initial pre-joint inspection on the Patriots, rolling stock and associated equipment before they were moved by road to Altus Air Force Base, Okla. A week later, the JI team relocated to Altus to join with Groves and a 15-person aerial port movement team, which had just arrived via a Kentucky Air National Guard C-130 from Louisville.

Over the next six days, the Kentucky Airmen worked with officials at Altus to ensure the Patriots would be loaded onto aircraft and flown overseas as expeditiously as possible.

Groves said that 18th Air Force officials requested the Kentucky Air Guard by name for this mission, in part because of the wing's capabilities and proven record for mission accomplishment.

"We continue to establish the 123rd Airlift Wing as the go-to unit," Groves said. "You call us when you need a quality product. All you need to know is that the outcome will be outstanding."

All 20 Kentucky Airmen received Army Commendation Medals from the 31st Air Defense Artillery Army Brigade commander, Col. Michael T. Morrissey, for their outstanding work during the deployment.

"These folks had an opportunity to deploy and do their mission," said Col. Mark Heiniger, commander of the 123rd Contingency response Group. "They accepted that challenge and did an outstanding job."