Wise visits 167th

October 11, 2003|by RICHARD F. BELISLE

An American flag and a West Virginia flag that Gov. Bob Wise gave to the 167th Air Lift Wing West Virginia Air National Guard at the start of the war in Iraq were returned to him Friday by troops who flew missions there and throughout Southwest Asia and Africa in support of the war.

There are 130 men and women from the unit deployed in the Persian Gulf region and Iraq, said Lt. Col. Roger Sencindiver, base spokesman. They are included in the 350 members of the 167th who are mobilized.

Some have been mobilized for about two years, Sencindiver said.

Maj. Jeff Lane of Leesburg, Va., who commanded the 167th on its missions during the Iraq war, gave the flags to Wise during a brief visit by the governor Friday. Wise said he went to the base to thank members of the unit for their service.


Sencindiver said three of the 167th's 12 C-130 transports and their 130 air and ground crew members are on duty at an unnamed base in the Gulf area. They fly daily missions all around the area, including Iraq, he said.

Crews are deployed for 45-day stretches then rotated home. Four more planes and another 130 airmen will soon fly over to replace those who are there, Sencindiver said.

The 45-day deployments make it easier on the crew members and their families, he said.

Medical personnel from the 167th have been stationed in the Persian Gulf region, including Iraq, for four months, he said.

Col. Bill Gain, vice commander of the 167th, praised his men in remarks to Wise, saying they have "outshone the Air Force every day" by keeping the C-130s flying. That has been a challenge with the heat and sand in the region.

Lane presented Wise with a certificate listing places the 167th has flown since the start of the war. He said it certifies that both flags were flown everywhere the unit flew.

The countries include Iraq, Afghanistan, Kurgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman, Djibouti, Jordan, Qatar, Kenya, Ethiopia and United Arab Emirates. The missions were flown from March through July 30.

The certificate reads, in part, "On behalf of the many crews of the 167th from Masirah Island Air Base, Sultanate of Oman, in support of America's war on terrorism during Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraq Freedom."

Wise said he will display the flags and the certificate in a special place of honor in the Governor's Reception Room "so everyone will know where this unit went."

He invited members of the unit to come and see the display.

"You found all these other places, I'm sure you can find Charleston," he said.

Earlier Friday, Wise met with members of the Berkeley County business community, including owners of bed-and-breakfast inns.

"I met with them in an effort to make West Virginia a center of the industry and a tourism destination place," he said.

He followed his visit to the Air Guard with a stop at Opequon Elementary School to meet with the children there.

"They asked me to stop by if I was in the area, and today is the day," he said.

The Herald-Mail Articles