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KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — About 250 airmen from across the Pacific departed Okinawa on Sunday for bases across the Middle East.

The flight from Kadena Air Base carried personnel from Misawa and Yokota air bases in mainland Japan, from Okinawa and from Andersen Air Force Base on Guam, said Maj. Dani Johnson, 18th Wing public affairs chief.

Troops from Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska and Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii were also on board, Johnson said.

The airmen traveled to Okinawa last week for the flight.

The servicemembers departed the island to support the ongoing air expeditionary force deployments for the Central Command Area of operations, Air Force officials said.

Airman 1st Class Nathan Baxter, 22, a fuel technician from the 374th Logistics Readiness Squadron at Yokota Air Base, was part of a four-man team that left for central Iraq. Baxter said his deployment to Iraq will be his first.

“I don’t think there’s anything to be nervous about,” he said.

Master Sgt. Robinson Joseph, 38, supply section chief for the 718th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Kadena, said he had mixed feelings about deploying. Bound for Qatar, this is his first deployment to the war zone, and his wife is carrying their second child, due in less than two months.

“If it wasn’t for the birth of my baby, I wouldn’t mind going at all,” he said.

His wife, Leenette, 36, said she realizes her husband is obligated to go.

“I understand he needs to do it, but it’s hard. I’m having the baby in six weeks,” she said.

Master Sgt. Jeff Cox, 42, of the 18th Logistics Readiness Squadron stationed at Kadena, is going on his fifth deployment. His wife, Patrice Cox, 39, said she never gets used to her husband being gone, but this deployment will be better than others because two of her three children are now teenagers.

“It’s going to be a little bit easier,” she said.

Saturday’s deployment was the first of two. The next fly-out, scheduled to depart sometime in next two weeks, will being larger, Johnson said.

Each deployment is to be 120 and 179 days, she said.

For those who were a little more apprehensive about leaving loved ones behind, Maj. Kathy Goforth, commanding officer of the 18th Munitions Squadron at Kadena, offered advice.

“Be prepared; take care of the mission,” she said. “We’ll take care of your family.”


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