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123rd Airlift Wing supports U.S. Southern Command airlift mission

Tech. Sgt. Matt Atkinson, a loadmaster in the 123rd Airlift Wing, checks C-130 passenger manifests at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky., on Sept. 12, prior to a flight to Puerto Rico. About 100 Kentucky Air Guardsmen will be supporting U.S. Southern Command airlift operations from San Juan through Oct. 10 as part of Operation Coronet Oak. (U.S. Air Force photo/Maj. Dale Greer)

Tech. Sgt. Matt Atkinson, a loadmaster in the 123rd Airlift Wing, checks C-130 passenger manifests at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky., on Sept. 12, prior to a flight to Puerto Rico. About 100 Kentucky Air Guardsmen will be supporting U.S. Southern Command airlift operations from San Juan through Oct. 10 as part of Operation Coronet Oak. (U.S. Air Force photo/Maj. Dale Greer)

Members of the 123rd Airlift Wing board a C-130 aircraft at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky., on Sept. 12. The troops are part of about 100 Kentucky Air Guardsmen will be supporting U.S. Southern Command airlift operations from San Juan, Puerto Rico, through Oct. 10 for Operation Coronet Oak. (U.S. Air Force photo/Maj. Dale Greer)

Members of the 123rd Airlift Wing board a C-130 aircraft at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky., on Sept. 12. The troops are part of about 100 Kentucky Air Guardsmen will be supporting U.S. Southern Command airlift operations from San Juan, Puerto Rico, through Oct. 10 for Operation Coronet Oak. (U.S. Air Force photo/Maj. Dale Greer)

KENTUCKY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- The Kentucky Air National Guard began its third major deployment of the year this morning when more than 50 Airmen departed here aboard two Kentucky Air Guard C-130s for San Juan, Puerto Rico.

The troops will provide theater airlift for U.S. military operations in the Caribbean and Central and South America through Oct. 10 as part of Operation Coronet Oak, an ongoing mission headquartered at Muniz Air National Guard Base.

A second rotation of 50 additional Airmen and two more C-130s is expected to follow on Sept. 26, said Lt. Col. Armand Bolotte, installation deployment officer here.

"We anticipate flying resupply missions and troop transports to Guantánamo Bay (Naval Base) in Cuba, as well as a wide range of airlift sorties into Central and South America to support U.S. Southern Command," said Maj. Cheryl Meffert, chief of current operations for the Kentucky Air Guard's 165th Airlift Squadron.

Other Coronet Oak missions include medical evacuations, resupply of U.S. embassies and support of anti-drug operations as directed by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, officials said.

It's been a busy year for the 123rd Airlift Wing, Kentucky's only operational Air Force unit.

Kentucky Airmen completed a three-week deployment to Germany on Sept. 5 during which more than 70 of the wing's Airmen flew or supported scores of airlift missions across Europe and Africa as part of Operation Joint Enterprise.

In March, April and May, about 200 Kentucky Airmen and multiple Kentucky Air Guard C-130s were deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. During that mission, Kentucky troops flew 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, Africa, and Central and South America, 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, said Col. Greg Nelson, wing commander.

"We can honestly say that the Kentucky Air National Guard supports every current overseas contingency operation," Colonel Nelson noted. "I'd like to thank our members for their continued dedication to the Air Force and Air National Guard mission all over the world."