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Staff Sgt. Joel Fernandez plays with his 8-month-old son, Jeremy, as he waits for a flight out of the RAF Mildenhall passenger terminal on Thursday. Fernandez, an aircraft communication and navigation maintainer from Mildenhall's 352nd Maintenance Squadron, left to a four-month deployment to Iraq.
Staff Sgt. Joel Fernandez plays with his 8-month-old son, Jeremy, as he waits for a flight out of the RAF Mildenhall passenger terminal on Thursday. Fernandez, an aircraft communication and navigation maintainer from Mildenhall's 352nd Maintenance Squadron, left to a four-month deployment to Iraq. (Sean Kimmons / S&S)
Staff Sgt. Joel Fernandez plays with his 8-month-old son, Jeremy, as he waits for a flight out of the RAF Mildenhall passenger terminal on Thursday. Fernandez, an aircraft communication and navigation maintainer from Mildenhall's 352nd Maintenance Squadron, left to a four-month deployment to Iraq.
Staff Sgt. Joel Fernandez plays with his 8-month-old son, Jeremy, as he waits for a flight out of the RAF Mildenhall passenger terminal on Thursday. Fernandez, an aircraft communication and navigation maintainer from Mildenhall's 352nd Maintenance Squadron, left to a four-month deployment to Iraq. (Sean Kimmons / S&S)
Airmen from the 31st Security Forces Squadron out of Aviano Air Base in Italy, play spades as they wait for a flight out of the RAF Mildenhall passenger terminal. On Thursday, the terminal became a hub for Air Force security forces deploying to various locations in the Central Command.
Airmen from the 31st Security Forces Squadron out of Aviano Air Base in Italy, play spades as they wait for a flight out of the RAF Mildenhall passenger terminal. On Thursday, the terminal became a hub for Air Force security forces deploying to various locations in the Central Command. (Sean Kimmons / S&S)
Staff Sgt. Stephan Boczar, a crew chief with the 352nd Maintenance Squadron, makes one last call at the RAF Mildenhall passenger terminal before deploying.
Staff Sgt. Stephan Boczar, a crew chief with the 352nd Maintenance Squadron, makes one last call at the RAF Mildenhall passenger terminal before deploying. (Sean Kimmons / S&S)

RAF MILDENHALL, England — Embracing her 5-year-old son in her arms, Tech. Sgt. Ronda Betterton waited anxiously Thursday to depart the RAF Mildenhall passenger terminal.

One of about 80 airmen from Mildenhall scheduled for deployments to Iraq and Kuwait, Betterton said she was prepared but still found it difficult to leave her son, Ryder, and husband Matthew.

The six-month deployment to Tallil Air Base in Iraq will be the first combat tour for the 100th Security Forces Squadron airman. Even though it hurt her to say goodbye to her family, she knew it was her turn, she said.

“It’ll be tough to leave the family, but I’m proud to go and fight for them,” said Betterton, holding back tears.

As a member of the squadron’s plans and programs section, Betterton said she is uncertain what she’ll be doing in Iraq, but she mentioned base security, off-base patrols and convoys.

Whatever the job, she is ready for it, she said. Her confidence stems from training exercise she attended in Germany. Betterton and other airmen spent two weeks learning about convoy operations and improvised explosive devices, among other things.

“I would rather learn about an IED this way,” she said about the exercise. “It helped put us in a better mind-set.”

Staff Sgt. Ron Thompson doesn’t have to worry too much about explosives where he is projected to deploy. Thompson, the unit deployment manager for the 100th, was headed to Ali Al Salem Air Base in Kuwait, along with about 26 other airmen.

“I’m excited, but it’s difficult to leave the family,” he said before leaving Thursday. Thompson will not see his wife and three children, ages 14, 10 and 1, for six months.

Also at the terminal were about 27 airmen from Mildenhall’s 352nd Special Operations Group who deployed to an undisclosed air base in central Iraq.

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