Kentucky Airmen return from West Africa mission

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Kirk Hilbrecht
  • Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs
Approximately 40 Airmen from the Kentucky Air National Guard returned home in the early morning hours of Nov. 19 from a deployment to West Africa. The Guardsmen were based in Senegal where the 123rd Contingency Response Group established a cargo processing hub in support of Operation United Assistance, the international effort to battle Ebola.

The arrival was the first of several flights scheduled to bring the unit home. Additional members are expected arrive before the weekend.

Senior Airman Jeff Hall worked as a member of the security forces with the said the "fulfilling" experience ranks near the top in his seven-year career.

"It was my first time able to assist with a humanitarian mission, and to be a part of it was exciting and I am proud to be a part of it," said Hall.

Even with the excitement of a gratifying mission, the worry of working near Ebola areas reached all the back home. Hall said those worries were absent overseas.

"We didn't really think about it much. We were so busy. We knew we were in an Ebola-free zone and we have really good officers that kept us on track with our health. We looked out for each other and never felt there was a threat."

Master Sgt. Matthew Hourigan served as the maintenance supervisor for the unit taking care of the numerous aircraft arriving with humanitarian aid in Senegal.

"This mission gave you, at the end of the day, when you put your head on the pillow, a feeling that what you are doing is providing a difference for someone else,"

With no concerns over their health, Hourigan and his wife, Rachel said its simply time to enjoy the holidays and move on like today is no different than yesterday.

"Its just a normal day, we get to start our Thanksgiving plans," he said. "We're going back to life and feeling a little bit more fulfillmentĀ  about what we did over there."

The 123rd Contingency Response Group is the only unit of its kind in the Air National Guard. Conceived as an "airbase in a box," the group acts as an early responder in the event of contingency operations worldwide. Several members of the CRG were involved in previous humanitarian missions, to include the Haiti earthquake aid in 2010. Unit members represent a broad spectrum of specialties, including airfield security, ramp and cargo operations, aircraft maintenance, and command and control.

"I am so proud of the incredible job our Kentucky Guardsmen executed overseas," said Maj. Gen. Edward W. Tonini, adjutant general for Kentucky. "Our Kentucky Air Guard members continue to show the world how we stand ready to serve and how we are responsive global neighbors who make such an important contribution to this crisis."

The Guardsmen were stationed in Dakar, Senegal, a World Health Organization designated Ebola Virus Disease-free country approximately 800 miles from Liberia, the closest EVD-zone. As such, DoD does not require military personnel returning from an EVD-free country to conduct a 21 day quarantine, as these military personnel had no close contact to the virus or affected personnel. As an extra precautionary measure, these Kentucky troops completed symptom monitoring by healthcare providers for the duration of their deployment.