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167th joins Kosovo aid effort

April 15, 1999

167th to KosovoBy BRYN MICKLE / Staff Writer, Martinsburg

photos: RIC DUGAN / staff photographer




MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Cindy Allen has watched her husband fly off before but somehow, she said, it seemed different in the past.

"The fear seems more real this time with everything that's going on, but I have confidence they'll do this mission and come home safe," said Allen.

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Allen's husband, Master Sgt. Jim Allen, was one of 25 members of the 167th Airlift Wing who embarked on a 13-hour trip to Germany Thursday afternoon. They will be supporting the relief mission to aid Kosovo refugees as part of Operation Shining Hope.

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While humanitarian missions are nothing new for the members of the 167th, reports of the violence and suffering in Kosovo created an added sense of duty for some crew members climbing aboard the C-130 that will be used to ferry supplies to refugees.

"When you see families in that situation you want to do everything you can to help. It's nice to know you are making a difference," said Staff Sgt. Scott Wachter of Berkeley Springs, W.Va.

Loading C-130Wachter and his fellow crew members will be based at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, where they will spend at least 15 to 30 days helping NATO efforts to get food, medical supplies and clothing to refugees.

They will be told the exact nature of the their missions when they arrive in Germany, said Lt. Col. Roger Sencindiver.

"It's difficult to gauge the dangers in this type of mission. A lot of it depends on how far the Serbs go into surrounding countries," said Sencindiver, who did not make the trip to Germany.

Base officials said the "credible threat" of the Serbian anti-aircraft weapons systems should keep 167th crew members out of Serbia, but the prospect of entering a combat area can cause unease.

"There's always a little apprehension, but I'm confident of our training," Lt. Buddy Bigley of Greencastle, Pa.

"Leaving my family is difficult, but the mission we're doing is for a good cause," said Tech Sgt. Curtis Surratt of Hagerstown.

Most of the crew said their goodbyes to loved ones Thursday morning. A handful of people joined the media and base personnel outside the Operations building to watch the plane taxi toward the runway.

Nightly television images of the conflict may create anxiety for viewers, but Joy Enders said the situation is different for the families of crew members.

"This is an everyday thing for us. The base deploys places all the time, so families are used to this," said Enders, wife of mission commander Lt. Col. Charles J. Enders.

Still, the 167th offers a family support group to help people deal with the situation and to ease the minds of crew members.

"We're here for each other whatever happens," said Joy Enders.

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