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Kentucky Air Guard deploys overseas for airlift mission

Ramp services troops load a pallet of cargo aboard a 123rd Airlift Wing C-130 at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky., on Aug. 17. The aircraft is one of two from the wing that will be supporting Operation Joint Enterprise at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, through Sept. 5. The airlift mission supports U.S. military forces across Europe and Africa. Seventy-two Kentucky Air Guardsmen also are deloying for the mission. (U.S. Air Force photo by Maj. Dale Greer.)

Ramp services troops load a pallet of cargo aboard a 123rd Airlift Wing C-130 at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky., on Aug. 17. The aircraft is one of two from the wing that will be participating in Operation Joint Enterprise at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, through Sept. 5. The airlift mission supports U.S. military forces across Europe and Africa. Seventy-two Kentucky Air Guardsmen also are deloying for the mission. (U.S. Air Force photo by Maj. Dale Greer.)

Members of the 123rd Airlift Wing board a C-130 at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky., on Aug. 17. The troops are among 72 Kentucky Air Guardsmen who are deploying to Ramstein Air Base, Germany, through Sept. 5 to support Operation Joint Enterprise. The airlift mission supports U.S. military operations across Europe and Africa. (U.S. Air Force photo by Maj. Dale Greer.)

Members of the 123rd Airlift Wing board a C-130 at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky., on Aug. 17. The troops are among 72 Kentucky Air Guardsmen who are deploying to Ramstein Air Base, Germany, through Sept. 5 to participate in Operation Joint Enterprise. The airlift mission supports U.S. military operations across Europe and Africa. (U.S. Air Force photo by Maj. Dale Greer.)

KENTUCKY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Seventy-two Kentucky Air Guardsmen deployed overseas this morning aboard two Kentucky Air Guard C-130s to fly airlift missions in support of U.S. military operations around the world.

The Airmen, all assigned to the 123rd Airlift Wing here, will operate from Ramstein Air Base, Germany, but will fly sorties across Europe and Africa as part of Operation Joint Enterprise, said Col. Greg Nelson, wing commander. The Kentucky Airmen also may fly troops and cargo into Iraq and Afghanistan if operational needs dictate.

They are scheduled to return home Sept. 5.

Operation Joint Enterprise is similar to several other airlift missions supported by Kentucky Air Guardsmen in the past decade. It grew out of an operation to fly troops and supplies into Bosnia-Herzegovina in the mid-1990s, and was later expanded to include support of missions across Europe, 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, Colonel Nelson said.

This latest deployment marks the second major overseas mission for the 123rd Airlift Wing this year. About 200 Kentucky Airmen and multiple Kentucky Air Guard C-130s were deployed to Afghanistan in March, April and May 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.

"The 123rd Airlift Wing has been actively engaged in nearly every major overseas contingency operation for more than a decade, and our current commitment is no different," Colonel Nelson said. "At the same time, we're also providing key support to the Commonwealth of Kentucky by responding to natural disasters like this year's statewide ice storm or the Aug. 4 flooding at home in Louisville.

"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. 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."

Besides Monday's deployment, the 123rd Airlift Wing currently has an additional 74 Kentucky Airmen deployed around the world in support of multiple U.S. military operations.

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