07/17/11 — 916th prepares for array of new missions

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916th prepares for array of new missions

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on July 17, 2011 12:14 AM

As members of the 916th Air Refueling Wing prepare to mark the unit's 25th year on Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, they do so with the knowledge that many of their comrades will miss the pending celebration.

Some have already arrived at locations in the Middle East.

Others will soon board aircraft bound for war.

And when, this fall, those who remain in Goldsboro and the communities that surround it gather for an event designed to honor the legacy of the Air Force Reserve's top wing, dozens will still be overseas writing the latest chapter in a history that stretches back to days long before Seymour Johnson welcomed the tanker community to its ranks.

916th Commander Col. Randall Ogden confirmed Thursday that aircrews and members of the wing's Security Forces Squadron are among those set to deploy in the coming weeks.

And he talked about how impressed he is at just how different the modern-day Air Force Reserve is than the one some of the wing's eldest members joined dec-ades ago -- and at how the men and women under his command have responded to the latest challenges facing the nation's fighting force.

"The Air Force Reserve is much different than it was say 20, 25 years ago when we first kicked off this wing. The tempo has certainly evolved," he said. "Twenty-five years ago, we were postured more for the Cold War, where we would respond to a very major war, whether that would be in Europe or Asia, and our training was very limited to weekends. ... But over the last few years, our (airmen) are gone 24 hours a day, seven days a week."

KC-135R Stratotanker crews will soon depart to ensure those enforcing the no-fly zone over Libya remain in the skies.

And Master Sgt. Robert Reader said his Security Forces comrades will soon begin six-month tours that will require them to do everything from providing cover for aircraft traveling across the region to ensuring bases across Afghanistan are secure.

Ogden said those airmen are prepared -- that he is confident each will attack his or her mission with the same ferocity that has made the 916th the envy of its command.

"It's very, very demanding ... and they will definitely be in parts of the world where there's danger ... so our thoughts and prayers are with them," he said. "It's a great sacrifice but we're blessed that we're able to recruit great people ... who are very patriotic and want to serve their country.

"They want to make a difference. So I'm delighted and just extremely, extremely proud."

Other Seymour Johnson airmen are gearing up for their own tours.

Members of the 567th REDHORSE Squadron will soon head to Afghanistan where they will complete an array of engineering missions, from digging wells to constructing forward operating bases.

And the 4th Fighter Wing's 335th Chiefs -- and many of their F-15E Strike Eagles -- are set to arrive at Bagram Airfield this fall to provide 24/7 air support to forces on the ground.

"It's humbling," Ogden said. "And I'm very, very proud that they are making these sacrifices."