09/08/11 — SJAFB airmen to deploy very soon

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SJAFB airmen to deploy very soon

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on September 8, 2011 1:46 PM

Someone will be missing from this Sunday's service at a downtown church.

A regular at the local deli won't show up for lunch.

The other parent will be the one dropping off and picking up the children from school.

To put it simply, the communities that surround Seymour Johnson Air Force Base will soon be incomplete.

Several hundred members of the 4th Fighter Wing are set to begin six-month tours in Afghanistan this weekend.

And by the end of the month, nearly 1,000 from the Goldsboro installation will be at war.

But despite the sadness that comes with knowing that key members of countless families will be absent for Thanksgiving Day, Christmas morning and the milestones between, the airmen's commander, Col. Patrick Doherty, said his team is anxious to, again, join the fight.

"It's an incredibly humbling experience talking with them and seeing ... how ready they are to go," he said. "It makes me incredibly proud."

He saw it several days ago when he addressed them inside the base theater.

"When you see in their eyes that they are ready to go, there is nothing better for a commander," Doherty said. "There is going to be some good stuff going on down range."

But it won't simply be the wing's aviation package. Members of the Security Forces and Civil Engineer squadrons, Explosive Ordnance Disposal detail and Medical Group will join those whose mission is to ensure the wing's fleet of F-15E Strike Eagles provides 24/7 air power for the soldiers and Marines currently on the ground.

"I think sometimes, we always focus on the jets when we bring so much more to the fight," he said. "Our air power is very devastating, but air power is not just about those airframes and those maintainers. It's an entire team that is put together that brings those capabilities to the combatant commander."

Sending young men and women into war is an emotional experience for a commander.

You could see it in Doherty's face when he talked about how hard it is to be among those left behind.

"The first thing I said to them was, 'I'm incredibly jealous that I can't go ... with you,'" the colonel said. "It's tough. You know, you work with them every single day and you want to lead them down range. You want to experience it with them and help them through it. There is nothing I would rather be in than my desert flight suit."

But knowing that he cannot, he will soon turn his focus to his charge as the 4th commander: Taking care of those families that will soon be incomplete while reminding his airmen just how grateful their nation is for the sacrifice he knows, firsthand, they will be making.

"The deployed spouses ... who take care of the home front, we should be proud of them, too. They have a long road ahead of them," Doherty said.

"So you say, 'Thanks.' You say, 'Thanks for your sacrifices,' and you tell them that the time is now -- that the nation is calling."