Deploying members of the Alaska Air National Guard’s 176th Wing shake hands with their commander, Col. Scott Wenke, as they board a C-17 Globemaster III cargo aircraft for Afghanistan Monday. (U.S. Air Force photo/Capt. John Callahan)
Members of the 176th Wing load an HH-60 Pave Hawk search and rescue helicopter onto a C-17 Globemaster III for a four-month deployment to Afghanistan Monday. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Shannon Oleson)
6/4/2012 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- More than 180 citizen-Airmen of the Alaska Air National Guard's 176th Wing have begun deploying for Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
The deployment marks the wing's single largest deployment of personnel since 2003. It will be the wing's second large-scale deployment from JBER since the Guard organization relocated here in February 2011 as part of the Base Realignment and Closure process.
The deploying Airmen are primarily maintenance crews from the wing's 176th Maintenance Group and rescue personnel from the wing's three rescue units: HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter pilots and crew from the 210th Rescue Squadron; HC-130 Hercules combat search and rescue aircraft pilots and crew from the 211th RQS; and pararescuemen and combat rescue officers from the 212th RQS.
Together with a handful of Expeditionary Combat Support personnel from other 176th Wing units, the deployers form a highly capable and versatile rescue package.
In Afghanistan, the rescuers will pursue their primary wartime mission of combat search and rescue. This often involves challenging casualty-evacuation missions - that is, flying into "hot" combat zones, frequently under fire, to pull wounded coalition service members to safety and transport them to a treatment facility within one hour. The maintenance crews will support this vital work by keeping the rescuers' planes and helicopters ready for flight at a moment's notice.
"We are very, very proud of our deploying men and women," said the wing's commander, Col. Scott Wenke. "These are highly trained and motivated professionals who will do an outstanding job in support of coalition efforts to help the Afghan people build a better future for their country. I thank them for their service and look forward to their safe return."
Since 1952, the 176th Wing has served Alaskans at home and American interests abroad. It has supported large-scale deployments each year since 2003.
The wing currently has more than 50 civil engineers, security personnel and other expeditionary combat Airmen deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
One of the largest and busiest wings in the Air National Guard, the 176 Wing also provides alert rescue and air defense capabilities in support of the 11th Air Force and Alaska NORAD Region.