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Members of the 167th home for the holidays

December 15, 2003|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - About 45 members of the 167th Airlift Wing are expected to return home from the Middle East this week as part of an effort to get as many members of the local Air National Guard unit as possible home for the holidays, a spokesman for the unit said Sunday.

The members of the local West Virginia Air National Guard unit have been supporting U.S. military actions in Iraq by flying personnel and cargo into the country, Lt. Col. Roger Sencindiver said Sunday.

The first group of 167th Airlift Wing members to return arrived Saturday aboard one of the base's C-130 cargo planes, Sencindiver said.

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Another plane will arrive today and a third one is expected to return Wednesday, Sencindiver said. Each of the planes will be carrying about 15 base members.

Officials from the local base are trying to get as many 167th Airlift Wing members home as possible for the holidays, Sencindiver said.

After the three groups return this week, about five air medical personnel from the base will remain overseas, Sencindiver said.

Another Air National Guard base is expected to pick up the duties to give the 167th Airlift Wing a break from the Iraqi missions, Sencindiver said.

Members of the 167th have been busy in Iraq and other countries like Afghanistan in support of war efforts and anti-terrorism work.

"We've had folks deployed almost regularly since 9/11," Sencindiver said.

Sencindiver said he believes many of the base members returning this week were working in Qatar, which is next to Saudi Arabia.

Some of the flights involved trips into Baghdad, Sencindiver said.

During some of the missions in Afghanistan, many of the flights were conducted at night, and lights were turned off inside the airplane when they landed at their destinations, base officials said. To land, pilots used night-vision goggles.

The 167th Airlift Wing, based at the Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport south of Martinsburg, provides support to military operations around the world. The base has about 1,180 members, including 300 who are full-time guard members.

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