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167th units to be sent overseas

March 03, 2003|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - About 200 members of the 167th Airlift Wing in Berkeley County, W.Va., will be deployed overseas as the country gets closer to a possible war with Iraq, a West Virginia Air National Guard official said Sunday.

Members of the 167th Airlift Wing will be sent to the Southern Command and Central Command, according to Brig. Gen. Wayne Lloyd.

The Central Command covers southwest Asia and the Southern Command includes areas from Puerto Rico to South America, said Lloyd.

He declined to identify the exact duties of 167th members.

When asked if they will support a possible war with Iraq, Lloyd said that is a logical conclusion.

"Certainly you can assume that with what you're seeing on world news," Lloyd said.

Lloyd said the 167th members will be leaving in the "near future" and it is unclear how long they will stay.

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The C-130 cargo planes, which are based at the unit's headquarters at the Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport, will be part of the work, Lloyd said.

It is unclear whether the 167th members who have been called up for the work will be transported on the cargo planes or other aircraft, Lloyd said.

The 167th members who will be part of the duty began making preparations at the base Saturday, Lloyd said.

Gov. Bob Wise was at the airport Saturday to speak with guard members before departure, Lloyd said.

A similar number of Air National Guard members from a base in Charleston, W.Va., also will be deployed for the duty, Lloyd said.

"He (Wise) told both units that he and the entire leadership are committed to taking care of their families," Lloyd said.

The Air National Guard provides a wide range of support to families of guard members while they are sent away on missions, Lloyd said.

Members of the 167th Airlift Wing have been sent on other missions to support the war against terrorism in and around Afghanistan.

They have transported tons of supplies and hundreds of people in overseas work and were praised for flying more than 1,600 hours in one detail with no aborted missions.

Conducting that many flights without having to cancel any missions was impressive considering the 130-degree temperatures some of the 167th members had to work in during one of the missions, military officials said.

In one of the missions, members of the local guard unit were stationed in the country of Qatar, which is next to Saudi Arabia.

Their duty was to load supplies onto C-130 aircraft and transport them to different areas in Afghanistan and other nearby countries for U.S. military forces, military officials said.

To avoid detection by enemy forces, many of the flights were conducted at night, and lights were turned off inside the airplane when they landed at their destinations, officials said. To land, pilots used night-vision goggles.

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