Wednesday, January 25, 2006

TOP STORY >> Gen. Self praises deployed airmen

Leader staff writer

Brig. Gen. Kip Self, commander of the 314th Airlift Wing at Little Rock Air Force Base, praised 100 airmen due home Sunday from a four-month deployment to Iraq and 500 airmen deploying over the next several weeks.

The 500 airmen are deploying in small groups to Iraq and other locations around the world, such as South America, to fight in the global war on terror. A group of 20 airmen boarded two C-130s on Friday bound for forward air bases in Balam, Iraq.

“These airmen are the finest men and women America has to offer, and Little Rock will keep them close through our prayers while they’re away from their homes, their friends and their families,” Self said.

“I ask that the tremendous supporting communities of central Arkansas continue to watch over their family members while they are serving in other countries and often in harm’s way, for we all can play an important part in defending our freedom,” Self said.
“I am deeply grateful to them and their families for their sacrifice and patriotism.”

The deploying airmen are members of the 314th Airlift Wing and the 463rd Airlift Group assigned to LRAFB. They are part of the Air Expeditionary Force, which was created in 2000 to provide rotation cycles from four to six months, giving airmen from units around the world and their families more predictability for deployments.

Members of the 463rd Airlift Group already stationed in Iraq helped train the first all-Iraqi C-130 Hercules crew.

The 463rd has about 1,200 airmen under its command divided up among an aircraft-maintenance squadron, maintenance operations squadron and an operations-support squadron, as well as two airlift squadrons, the 50th and the 61st. The 61st Airlift Squadron flies 12 of the older C-130E aircraft, and the 50th Airlift Squadron flies 14 of the C-130H3 aircraft.