Yokota airmen deploy to Southwest Asia
January 7, 2006
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — Almost 150 airmen from the 374th Airlift Wing are leaving this week for Southwest Asia to support Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom in the war on terror.
It’s part of a scheduled rotation within the Air Force’s Aerospace Expeditionary Force cycle. The dispatch represents more than half of Yokota’s 268-troop commitment in AEF 9 and 10, being carried out in waves through April. Fifty personnel left Tuesday for Central Command’s area of responsibility; another 50 are to deploy this weekend.
About 40 airmen joined family, friends and co-workers Thursday for a quiet send-off in a building next to Yokota’s flight line.
“We’re looking forward to it,” said Lt. Col. Richard Peterson, 374th Logistics Readiness Squadron commander, who’s leading a group into Afghanistan. “There’s a great mission down there to support and this is part of our duty.
“Our units always go there and make a difference.”
Capt. David Westover, a wing spokesman, said several squadrons’ and agencies’ personnel are in the current deployment batch. They include civil engineer, communications, operations support, logistic readiness, postal and aircraft maintenance workers. But the 374th Security Forces Squadron and 36th Airlift Squadron are among the hardest hit.
Yokota’s contingent is expected to be gone for about four months, he added.
Before boarding a charter plane Thursday night, airmen passed time by watching movies and playing cards. In between, they grabbed refreshments and munched on pizza brought in from Anthony’s.
Senior Airman Kevin McHenry of the 374th Civil Engineer Squadron, who’s headed to Kandahar Air Base in Afghanistan on his first deployment, said he’s not too worried about what awaits.
“I’ve got some buddies I’m replacing over there,” he said. “They let me know everything’s OK. It should be easy hopefully, but there’ll be a lot of work to do.”
McHenry has tried to dispel the fears of his wife, Jerri, pregnant with the couple’s first child.
“He’s told me everything that’s supposed to go on, so I’m OK,” she said, adding that he should be back in time for the baby’s arrival. “I’m gonna try not to worry too much.”
But she also “probably won’t watch any news. I’ll just go by what he says in e-mails and phone calls.”
Senior Airmen Zac Carlson and Jerry Williams, 374th Logistics Readiness Squadron, went through Thursday’s farewell without any family members. “We’re dorm rats. We both volunteered to go,” Carlson said.
The two work in vehicle maintenance and will fix Humvees during the deployment at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan.
“This is my first one, so I really don’t know what to expect,” Carlson said. “I’ve talked to enough people where I have an idea.”
“I’ll probably be working 12-hour shifts six days a week — I know that much. But other than that, I’m a little uncertain about what’s going to happen.”
Williams, who spent time in Baghdad last year, said monotony sometimes can be the biggest obstacle downrange.
“I’ll be on base the whole time and don’t plan on leaving it,” he said. “I’m looking forward to getting back here.”