News: South Carolina Air National Guard airmen swap out during AEF
Story by Tech. Sgt. Stephen Hudson
KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – More than 100 members of the South Carolina Air National Guard's 169th Fighter Wing from McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C., touched down at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan as part of a swap out of Fighter Wing personnel deployed here.
When the C-17 Globemaster III touched down at Kandahar Airfield, members of the South Carolina Air National Guard’s 169th Fighter Wing, based at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C., spilled off the ramp and into the Afghan summer heat. The nearly 100 Swamp Foxes made their way across the concrete and were met by some familiar faces. This group of airmen is part of the swap out of S.C. Air National guardsmen currently deployed here.
They arrived Sunday, June 10 after several days of flying and a brief stopover at the Transit Center at Manas in Kyrgyzstan for briefings and to receive extra gear. Regardless of jet lag, many of the airmen met their co-workers in their work centers and went straight to work.
In April, the 169th Fighter Wing deployed more than a dozen F-16s and 400 personnel including pilots, maintenance specialists, and support staff to support Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. The swap out allows traditional Guard members, who may have time constraints from their civilian jobs to deploy for a shorter period of time, said Col. David Meyer, deputy operations group commander while deployed to Kandahar Airfield.
“The good news is that all our members are arriving with all their training complete – not an easy task – and ready to perform the mission,” Col. David Meyer said. “I greatly appreciate the sacrifice each member, and their family is making.”
The 169th, while deployed for a four-month AEF rotation, is still supporting its flying operations at home and executing the Aerospace Control Alert mission at McEntire. Meyer said this swap out allows the unit “a lot of flexibility” in manning both commitments.
Tech. Sgt. Stacey Wellington, a munitions support section specialist from Atlanta, Ga., was one of those airmen. This is her third deployment to Southwest Asia, and her first to Afghanistan. Wellington said she enjoys deploying with the people from her Air National Guard unit because it strengthens their already tight bonds.
“This is what gets me really excited about my job,” Tech. Sgt. Wellington said of the deployment. “What I like is I learn so much about my job.”
This is the wing’s largest deployment since Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm, and the fourth major deployment of its F-16s since 2002 when the Swamp Foxes deployed to Southwest Asia in support of Operation Enduring Freedom when they flew more than 200 combat missions in the early days of the Afghan Campaign. The wing also deployed in 2003 and 2010 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The Swamp Foxes are deployed through August of this year.