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Wing completes back-to-back deployments

KENTUCKY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- The 123rd Airlift Wing completed two back-to-back overseas deployments this month that delivered more than 145 tons of cargo and over 500 troops to locations across Europe, the Caribbean and Central and South America.

The first deployment saw 72 Kentucky Air Guardsmen and two of the wing's C-130 aircraft deploy to Ramstein Air Base, Germany, from Aug. 17 to Sept. 5 for Operation Joint Enterprise.

That ongoing mission grew out of an operation to fly troops and supplies into Bosnia-Herzegovina in the mid-1990s, but it has since expanded to include support of military operations across Europe, Africa and the Central Command Area of Responsibility.

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, said Col. Greg Nelson, wing commander.

This time, Kentucky Airmen flew 60 sorties into 18 countries, delivering troops and cargo to such locations as Azerbaijan, Bosnia, Bulgaria, England, Kosovo, Sardinia, Serbia, Romania and Turkey, said Lt. Col. Scott Wilson, mission commander.

The second overseas mission took place Sept. 12 to Oct. 10 when more than 100 Kentucky Airmen and four C-130s deployed to San Juan, Puerto Rico in support of Operation Coronet Oak.

Working from Muniz Air National Guard Base, the Airmen provided theater airlift for U.S. government and Southern Command military operations throughout the Caribbean and Central and South America, said Maj. James White, mission commander.

Both deployments follow on the heels of a third overseas mission this spring in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

About 200 Kentucky Airmen and multiple Kentucky Air Guard C-130s were deployed to Afghanistan in March, April and May, flying more than 1,500 combat sorties to deliver approximately 6,000 tons of cargo to forward operating bases in the Central Command Area of Responsibility. The Kentucky Airmen also airdropped vital equipment and supplies to U.S. and coalition forces on the ground, and transported more than 20,000 Soldiers across the theater of operations.

While the wing's aviation assets have been active in Europe, Asia, and Central and South America, scores of other unit members have deployed to Iraq and dozens of other locations around the world this year for missions ranging from civil engineering to public affairs.

"We can honestly say that the Kentucky Air National Guard supports every current overseas contingency operation," Colonel Nelson said.

The unit has been equally busy at home, providing extensive support for disaster relief operations after a statewide ice storm paralyzed the Commonwealth in January and record flooding struck Louisville in August.

The operations tempo isn't expected to slow much in the coming months, with an Operational Readiness Inspection scheduled for May and additional overseas deployments slated to follow next summer.

"Name a mission, and we're most likely playing a vital role, whether it be homeland defense or overseas contingency operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere," Colonel Nelson said.

"That is a testament to the men and women of the 123rd Airlift Wing, who are always ready to answer the call to duty, any time, anywhere. I'd like to thank our members for their continued dedication to the Air Force and Air National Guard mission all over the world."

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