May 3, 2014 (by SSgt. Evelyn Chavez ) - A team of Alabama Air National Guard Airmen have arrived at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. The 100th Fighter Squadron "Red Tails" from the 187th Fighter Wing in Montgomery, Ala. will provide over-watch and close-air-support for ground units.
U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon from the 100th Fighter Squadron, 187th Fighter Wing Montgomery, Ala. arrive at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan April 27, 2014. The Guard unit recently replaced the 93rd Fighter Squadron from Homestead Air Reserve Station, Fla. and 301st Fighter Squadron from Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base, Fort Worth, Texas for the latest deployment rotation. [USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Evelyn Chavez]
This deployment is very unique, according to 1st Lt. Samuel Kniskern, 100th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron intelligence officer-in-charge, as it is not typical for the Guard to complete a six-month rotation with one specific unit. In the Guard, deployments are normally distributed amongst one or two units for three to four months at a time.
"It is different in that normally we will have a smaller number of people deploy with active duty augmentees," said Kniskern.
Despite being in a deployment rotation longer than normal, the fighter squadron's support of contingency operations is nothing new. The unit's history is well known as they were one of the original Tuskegee Airmen squadrons during World War II. They deployed to Italy
as bomber escorts in late 1943, supported the Cold War and continued making their mark during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2009. This will be the ninth combat deployment for the 187th Fighter Wing since Operation Desert Storm.
"It means a lot to be part of history, the Red Tails marker is something we are really proud of" said 1st Lt. Jeffrey Witt, 100th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron pilot.
"The squadron, flew with distinction during World War II. We are proud to continue the heritage with this deployment," said Witt.
From pilots in the air to the Airmen on the ground, Witt believes that the 100th Fighter Squadron will carry on the privileged tradition.
"We have been around a long time and have successfully deployed and accomplished the mission, we expect nothing less this time," said Witt.
While this is the squadron's first deployment to Afghanistan and the first for several of the squadron's Airmen, they are ready to contribute to the mission.
"I think morale is pretty high, everyone realizes it is a six-month deployment and we are all digging in together... with the short time here we have met, if not exceeded expectations set forth by the previous squadron," said Kniskern.