Alabama Air National Guard fighter unit, two other units deployed to Afghanistan
The 187th Fighter Wing of the Alabama Air National Guard is headed to Afghanistan.
A deployment ceremony was held this morning for the unit, which flies F-16s.
Col. Samuel Black, the wing commander, said it will be the unit’s first combat deployment since going to Iraq in 2009.
Black said the group’s mission is to “provide armed over-watch for troops on the ground.”
Gov. Robert Bentley, Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey, and U.S. Reps. Martha Roby and Terri Sewell spoke at this morning’s ceremony in the unit’s maintenance hangar at Dannelly Field.
The elected officials praised the airmen for their quick response to the mobilization order.
Black said the official order came about six months ago. Many of the airmen in the unit serve one weekend a month. Black said that made it a challenge to prepare the jets and the airmen.
“We only have access to these airmen two days a month,” Black said. “So six months is equivalent to 12 days for us.”
Black said hundreds of airmen were going to Afghanistan but declined to give a specific number. He also did not give a specific departure date.
The Montgomery-based unit is now home to one of the three fighter squadrons that comprised the Tuskegee Airmen.
The Tuskegee Airmen, the first African American pilots in U.S. military service, were known as the Red Tails, a name now used by the 187th.
Retired Col. R.J. Lewis, president of the Alabama Chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen, spoke at today’s event.
“This is a truly great day to see that history linked, and you are that link,” Lewis told the airmen.
Two more Alabama National Guard units are also going to Afghanistan.
A departure ceremony was planned for today in Northport for the Forward Support Company Guard's 877th Engineer Battalion.
The Headquarters and Headquarters Company of the 877th and the 1305th Survey and Design Team will have a deployment event in Haleyville. Both groups will train extensively before moving overseas.
More than 21,000 Alabama Guard members have been called to active duty since the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
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