188th deploys; Commander Talks About Unit Uncertainty

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The first round of 188th Fighter Wing members deploying to Afghanistan also comes at a time of much uncertainty among the about 1,000 unit members about the future of the unit’s mission.

According to a statement form the 188th Fighter Wing, about 75 Airmen with the 188th Maintenance Group departed Fort Smith on Thursday (Mar. 29) for Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. The airmen, deployed approximately six months, are part of an Air Expeditionary Forces (AEF) rotation, which the 188th is sharing with the Baltimore-based 175th Wing.

The 188th will support missions that include close-in-support of troops on the ground, “overfly” of deploying troops, “show of force” actions and search and rescue, noted Col. Tom Anderson, 188th Fighter Wing commander, in an interview with The City Wire.

A second round of 188th members will deploy in early July as part of the official flying mission of the 188th. A total of 400 188th members will deploy, with all expected to return in October.

“We appreciate the sacrifice and dedication that our Airmen make and also the sacrifices made by those loved ones left behind. We’re confident they will make their wing, families and communities proud. We anxiously await their safe return,” Anderson, who is not going on the deployment, said in a statement.

In The City Wire interview, Anderson acknowledged uncertainty surrounding planned changes to the Air Force budget and equipment structure.

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