Approximately 275 Airmen with the Fort Smith-based 188th Fighter Wing deployed on Monday (July 2) for Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. The Airmen will be deployed approximately three months.
The scheduled three-month deployment is part of an Air Expeditionary Forces (AEF) rotation, which the 188th is sharing with the Baltimore-based 175th Wing.
About 75 Airmen from the 188th Maintenance Group departed March 29 for a six-month deployment as part of Operating Enduring Freedom. When all are deployed, about 400 members from the 188th will be in Afghanistan, with most expected to return by October.
The 188th will support missions that include close-in-support of troops on the ground, “overfly” of deploying troops, “show of force” actions and search and rescue.
"It's never easy deploying men and women into combat and we appreciate their sacrifices as well as those made by their families," Col. Mark Anderson, 188th Fighter Wing commander, said in a statement "We have some of the most highly trained and capable Airmen in the Air Force and I have complete confidence that they will focus on the mission and exceed all expectations. From the maintainers to the pilots and support personnel, our men and women have continued to exhibit dedication and professionalism in the face of adversity. We're very proud of our Airmen and we await their safe return."
Approximately 20 Airmen with the 188th deployed to Afghanistan last week as part of an advance team which will prepare for the arrival of the larger group.
In total, the 188th deployed approximately 375 Airmen to Afghanistan during this AEF rotation.
This is the second AEF deployment for the 188th as a unit since receiving A-10s April 14, 2007. The 188th's last AEF rotation transpired in 2010 when the unit deployed approximately 300 Airmen and 10 A-10Cs to Kandahar, Afghanistan.
While the 188th prepares year-round for its mission, it has conducted a training regimen in the past six months in preparation for its AEF rotation. The 188th deployed approximately 300 operations, maintenance and support personnel along with multiple A-10Cs to participate in Operation Snowbird at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., Feb. 11-26, 2012.
The deployment to Davis-Monthan afforded the 188th with the opportunity to conduct training and gain operational experience in a mountainous, desert terrain, which closely mimics the climate and conditions in Afghanistan.
The 188th also participated in Green Flag-East, a combat training exercise located at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., which allows A-10s to work with attack controllers to coordinate precise live and inert weapons deliveries.
"This is what we train for year round," said Capt. B.J. Ginger, an A-10 pilot with the 188th Fighter Wing. "Each deployed location is different and we prepare for everything."