08/25/10 — Jets take off to join squadron in Bagram

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Jets take off to join squadron in Bagram

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on August 25, 2010 1:46 PM

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336th Fighter Squadron Rocketeer Luke Schneider holds his daughter Faith, 4, while his wife, Dawn, holds their daughter Allison, 3, shortly before Luke was scheduled to leave for Afghanistan this week.

Holding a glowstick in one hand while, with the other, waving an American flag, Faith Schneider bounced on her father's lap and looked into his eyes.

At 4 years old, it likely hadn't really hit her that within moments, her "daddy," Luke, would board an F-15E Strike Eagle bound for Afghanistan -- that he wouldn't be home until well after Christmas.

"I'm hoping today will set them in motion," the girl's mother, Dawn, said, looking down at Faith and her 3-year-old sister Allison. "This is their first time."

Dozens of members of the 336th Fighter Squadron were scheduled to leave Seymour Johnson Air Force Base early Tuesday morning to join the hundreds who began their six-month deployments to Bagram Airfield Sunday.

But after several hours of fellowship, pre-flight briefings and final goodbyes, the Strike Eagle launch was delayed.

At first, the crowd was told it would have to wait another hour to see 336th crews take flight.

Allison didn't seem to mind.

She just kept crawling around on Luke's lap, smiling and laughing as that American flag got closer and closer to his face with every wave of her hand.

But then, the airmen and their families were told the launch would have to wait -- that they would have 24 more hours to say goodbye.

Several 336th F-15Es -- and the crews that man them -- finally left the Goldsboro installation early this morning, with more scheduled to take to the skies Thursday.

Once in Afghanistan, their charge will be the same as it was during the deployment they returned from just last summer: to provide unrelenting air power in support of Coalition forces on the ground -- 24/7 overwatch of convoys, "troops in contact" and enemy forces.

And 4th Fighter Wing Commander Col. Patrick Doherty said no airmen know that mission quite like those from Seymour Johnson.

"When I was downrange, we always knew when the 4th Fighter Wing was in town, because they are so much better than anyone else," he said. "So I expect the best ... the highest of standards."

The same standard he expects from those officials, including himself, left in Goldsboro to take care of those families left behind.