MADISON, Wis. --
The last of more than 250 members of the Air National Guard’s 115th Fighter Wing and 378th Fighter Squadron active associate departed Truax Field for Southwest Asia July 21.
The Airmen, along with a number of the unit’s F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft, will spend the next several months based in Afghanistan conducting flying missions in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel and NATO’s Resolute Support.
In a brief departure ceremony, Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes and Congressman Bryan Steil joined Wisconsin National Guard and 115th FW senior leaders to relay their gratitude to the deploying Airmen and their families.
“As Americans we owe both you and your families a debt of gratitude for all that you do to keep our nation safe and secure,” Barnes said.
The significance of the support Guardsmen receive from their families and employers was a recurring theme throughout the event. The message was punctuated with the introduction of 115th FW Airman and Family Readiness Program Manager Jerry Hook, who stands available 24/7 to assist the deploying Airmen’s loved ones with any issues that may arise in their absence.
Senior Master Sgt. Holly Sieja, cyber systems superintendent for the 115th Communications Flight, attended the ceremony to send off her daughter, Senior Airman Isabella Jansen as she departed on her first overseas deployment.
“Nothing can eliminate the worries associated with your child deploying into harm’s way,” Sieja said. “But it helps to know she is part of a cohesive team of Airmen that look out for one another.”
According to 115th Operations Group Commander Col. Jon Kalberer, the exceptional training available to pilots and maintainers at Truax Field and within the Volk Field military operating area contributes immeasurably to their readiness to deploy.
“Our Airmen have the opportunity to train with members of different services in an environment that simulates our deployed location,” Kalberer said. “This training allows our deployed Airmen to arrive in theatre and immediately provide dominant combat airpower as part of the total force.”
For Tech. Sgt. Thomas Twohig, armament systems mechanic for the 115th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, the deployment represented an opportunity to put 13 years of practical experience to practice.
“Our training is precise, plentiful and extremely thorough,” Twohig said. “It’s prepared us to operate under any circumstance, or in any environment. It’s also given me the confidence to execute our mission safely and effectively.”
Following the ceremony, Airmen spent time saying their final goodbyes to family and friends before boarding the plane that would carry them nearly 7,000 miles from home.
“So many times we take our freedoms for granted,” Barnes said to the formation of deploying Airmen. “You above all are intimately aware of the cost of freedom, and the sacrifices to preserve it.”