First Lt. Adam Coyne of the 374th Contracting Squadron at Yokota Air Base, Japan, holds his daughter, Emily, while his wife, Misa, looks on. Coyne is deploying in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

First Lt. Adam Coyne of the 374th Contracting Squadron at Yokota Air Base, Japan, holds his daughter, Emily, while his wife, Misa, looks on. Coyne is deploying in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. (Warren Comer / Courtesy of U.S. Air Force)

YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — About 280 troops from Misawa and Yokota air bases left Wednesday for various locations in Southwest Asia to support operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom in the global war on terrorism, Yokota officials said.

A plane carrying almost 130 airmen from Misawa stopped at Yokota, where the base leadership joined family, friends and co-workers in saying farewell to the 150 deploying servicemembers from the 374th Airlift Wing.

It’s part of a scheduled rotation within the Air Force’s Aerospace Expeditionary Force cycle. Wednesday’s dispatch represented roughly half of Yokota’s 300-troop commitment in AEF 3 and 4 — which is being carried out in waves this month. Forty personnel took off Jan. 3 for the Central Command’s area of responsibility.

“They’re heading to locations surrounding and in Iraq and Afghanistan,” said 1st Lt. Warren Comer, a 374th Airlift Wing spokesman. “This is the largest group we have going out there.”

Personnel from several squadrons and agencies were among those leaving Wednesday, including from civil engineering, communications, mission support, wing staff, medical, logistic readiness, maintenance, aircraft maintenance, operational support, air postal, comptroller, weather, security forces, contracting and services units.

The Air Force’s deployment lengths range from three months to four months.

“I’m proud of all the airmen at Yokota who sacrifice so much to make the world a better place,” said Col. Doug Kreulen, the 374th Airlift Wing commander, at Wednesday’s send-off. “We’re proud that they’re representing all of us here at Yokota, but anxious for their quick return to their families and friends.”

Before departing, the Yokota contingent had a lengthy wait in Building 400, which sits next to the base’s flightline. For some, the waiting merely heightened emotions.

Alishea Royse, with daughters Azzy, 8, and Madalyn, 7, sitting nearby, fought tears throughout the day as her husband, Senior Airman Rob Royse of the 374th Logistics Readiness Squadron, prepared to get on the plane. He’s making his third career deployment, but this is his first to Iraq.

“It’s going to be harder for her,” he said. “She’s been through this before, but it’s the first time I’ll be in any kind of danger. Normally, we’re back in the States and they’ll go home. This’ll be the first time away from all our family.

“Being away from them is going to be pretty rough, but I guess it’s for the best. It’s part of the job.”

Senior Airman Patrick Sullivan of the 374th Maintenance Squadron was gearing up for his first deployment of any kind.

“I’m kinda nervous, leaving these two,” he said, pointing to wife Cassandra and their 6-month-old daughter, Senora. “The toughest part is leaving them behind.”

Cassandra Sullivan, also a senior airman with the 374th Maintenance Squadron, said being active-duty herself makes the separation a little easier.

“He can talk to me in technical terms and I know what he’s saying,” she added. “But it’s going to be hard mostly because [Senora] is so young and I’ll be raising her by myself. She won’t remember much. She’ll kinda sense that he’s gone but then he’ll come back and everything will be OK.”

Master Sgt. Jo Bradshaw and Airman 1st Class Jennifer Cain, both supply personnel with the 374th Civil Engineer Squadron, were making their first trips downrange as well. Both single, they went through Wednesday’s sendoff without any family members.

“It’s easier that way,” Bradshaw said. “If I had kids and a husband here, it would probably be much harder.

“It’s my first deployment actually, but they said it’ll be easier than the unit’s last one. We’re going to a little safer area. But the [Iraqi] election is coming up, so I don’t really know what to expect.”

Added Cain: “Work is going to be more challenging. The election is coming up, so we’ll be busier. I think I’ll get more nervous the closer we get to loading the plane. Right now, I’m OK.”

Staff Sgt. Laurie Villacorta of the 374th Logistics Readiness Squadron hugged husband Max inside Building 400’s hangar as she prepared for a final goodbye.

“Usually I get to go, or we get sent at the same time,” said Max Villacorta, a technical sergeant with the logistics readiness squadron. “We’re in the same AEF bucket. I just wasn’t picked this time.”

Laurie Villacorta said this marks the couple’s third time apart because of deployments.

“It’ll be tough but it gets easier with each one,” she said. “It’s still hard, but I guess you could say we’ve developed our coping skills a little better.”

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