06/11/04 — Lightning and thunder give deployed airmen a sendoff

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Lightning and thunder give deployed airmen a sendoff

By Matt Shaw
Published in News on June 11, 2004 2:03 PM

Several hundred airmen deployed from Seymour Johnson this morning to support the war on terrorism.

The Air Force base wouldn't release numbers, but around 1:15 a.m. hundreds of airmen climbed aboard a large transport plane that would carry them overseas. They left between periods of torrential rain and as lightning leapt from cloud to cloud in the distance.

The weather had cleared by the time a flock of F-15E Strike Eagles left after 5 a.m.

The Air Force had been planning the deployment for 15 months, according to Capt. Jeff Jones of the 4th Fighter Wing's Public Affairs Office. The Seymour Johnson airmen will relieve servicemen who had been overseas for a year or more.

The airmen will be assisting in operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere in the Middle East. The F-15Es are one of the most advanced tactical fighter aircraft in the world.

The deployed personnel included pilots but also mechanics, security forces and people from all areas of the 4th Fighter Wing.

Only a handful of people came out to the tarmac at 1 a.m. to wave American flags and send the airmen along their way. Most family members had said their goodbyes following earlier briefings away from the airfield.

The first buses rolled up at 1:10 a.m. As they clambered off and toted their bags into the plane, the airmen filed past a receiving line, anchored by Brig. Gen. Eric J. Rosborg, the commander of the 4th Wing, and most of the group commanders.

By 1:20 a.m., the last of the airmen was aboard.

The brass took off.

All that was left was a flight into the unknown, out over the sleeping people of Wayne County and headed half a world away.