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KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — More than 140 people deployed Thursday night to Iraq and other desert theaters as part of Air Expeditionary Force cycle 10.

Most of the deployed airmen are stationed at Kadena, with others coming from Misawa and Yokota air bases.

Most of the airmen, who come from a variety of specialties and squadrons, will return in four months.

Airman Basic Emily Rykowski, 19, has been based at Kadena for just one month. She recently learned that she would be going to Iraq.

Her two brothers and sister in the Marines are excited for her, she said. But some of her friends and family have images of her doing things that don’t correspond with her duties in a services squadron, Rykowski said.

“They think I’m going to Iraq, I’ll be fighting out in the dust,” she said.

It’s rare for airmen like Rykowski to have so little time to prepare for deployment, but it does happen, said Maj. Tony Anaya, installation deployment officer.

“Airmen are typically prepped 30 to 45 days in advance,” Anaya said.

Several days before leaving, the airmen review a checklist of personal items and responsibilities, Anaya said.

Then they go to a one-stop area where they can take care of necessities such as signing a power-of-attorney form, talking to a chaplain or asking financial questions.

Much of the preparation is to help families.

“You make sure that they’ll be OK if something happens,” said Staff Sgt. Michael Clay.

The process also gives noncommissioned officers time to advise their junior airmen.

Clay acknowledged that not everyone may understand the war’s goals and aims. But he said he tells his junior airmen to concentrate on keeping everyone safe while they perform their mission.

“It’s about making sure people come back and looking out for each other while we’re there,” Clay said.

Staff Sgt. Kevin Steele deployed to Saudi Arabia in 2000, but this will be his first Iraq deployment.

He remembers the bonds he formed with co-workers in Saudi Arabia and tells his junior airmen to expect the same in their downrange environment.

“I tell them you’ll meet some of the best people you’ll ever work with,” Steele said.

He said airmen who already have deployed have said good things about their experiences in Iraq to him.

“I’m actually glad to be deploying now,” Steele said. “Like this, you don’t miss any holidays.”


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