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MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — The first big wave is on the way.

More than 60 people from Misawa, and about another 20 from Hickam Air Base, Hawaii, departed Wednesday morning aboard a chartered military flight bound for various locations and duties in the Middle East.

A few airmen already have trickled downrange as part of one of the largest deployments ever from Misawa in support of the Air Force’s next Aerospace Expeditionary Force rotation.

“About 700 people will be deploying from this base within the next 30 days,” said Col. Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, 35th Fighter Wing commander, while shaking hands with desert camouflage-clad airmen at the passenger terminal Wednesday.

Looking around, he said: “It really hits home that every airman is a warrior.”

From pilots and public affairs specialists to security forces and administrative agencies, the Air Force is supporting the war effort “across the board,” he said.

After saying goodbye to their families, airmen chatted with each other, read or sat alone quietly while waiting to board their 9 a.m. flight. Most are going downrange for four months, many for the first time.

Staff Sgt. Crissy Pereira of the 35th Communications Squadron teared up briefly when asked about her maiden deployment.

“I just keep thinking about my kids,” she said of her 4-year-old and 2-year-old. “I miss them already.”

Pereira was headed to Balad Air Base, Iraq, where she expects to work in the network control center.

Also deploying for the first time was Tech. Sgt. Ronald Griffith, who’s going to Al Asad Air Base, where mostly U.S. Marines are assigned. Griffith, 42, is deploying with two of his colleagues from the 35th Logistics Readiness Squadron to work in the vehicle maintenance shop.

“I just want to get there, do what I have to do and come home,” he said.

Another logistics airman, Airman 1st Class Catlyn Rohwer, 19, said he was a bit nervous about his first expeditionary duty. But he’s happy about going to Al Udeid in Qatar, where he’ll issue weapons to Air Force personnel.

“I heard it’s really nice,” he said. “It’s a good first deployment.”

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Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.

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