300 more Spangdahlem airmen deployed to Gulf region
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — An additional 300 airmen and fighter aircraft from the 52nd Fighter Wing at Spangdahlem Air Base have received deployment orders for the Persian Gulf region.
Base officials won’t disclose the troops’ exact destination and will say only that the deployment is in support of the global war on terrorism and to prepare for any future contingencies.
The orders come just over a week after 500 other Spangdahlem airmen and half a squadron’s worth of F-16CJ aircraft joined some 100 Spangdahlem airmen already in the region.
When the 300 additional airmen leave Germany, nearly the entire 22nd Fighter Squadron and its aircraft will be forward deployed in the Gulf region. In addition, aircraft maintenance, weapons and personnel specialists from a variety of other squadrons are moving to the area in support of the fighter squadron, Spangdahlem spokeswoman Staff Sgt. Cindy Dorfner said.
Spangdahlem is home to three fighter squadrons and is the only U.S. fighter base in the country.
The latest movements mean that more than 20 percent of the base’s 4,000 active-duty personnel will be gone for an undetermined amount of time.
Members of the 22nd Fighter Squadron and their sister unit in the wing, the 23rd Fighter Squadron, remaining in Spangdahlem are especially feeling the effects, said acting 22nd commander Lt. Col. John McDevitt.
The 23rd is picking up the slack, helping the 22nd’s pilots maintain their flight-training schedule and training new pilots. Maintenance workers from the 23rd are helping keep 22nd’s planes in the air — while monitoring maintenance needs for fighters already in the Gulf.
“Their workload has almost doubled,” McDevitt said.
To maintain a steady deployment pace, heavy airlift aircraft will be arriving and departing Spandahlem during quiet hours over the next few weeks, a base news release said.
The 52nd Fighter Wing deployments are part of a massive buildup of troops in the Persian Gulf region that military officials say give the president the flexibility he needs for any potential action against Iraq.
U.N. arms inspectors are continuing their search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and are expected to present a report on their findings by Monday.
In the interim, Army and Marine troops have been moving into Kuwait and several aircraft carrier battle groups are making their way to the Gulf.