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October 10, 2012

To Africa And Afghanistan


Over 150 members of the New York Air National Guard's 106th Rescue Wing based in Westhampton Beach deployed to Afghanistan and the Horn of Africa last week.

The Airmen, who are trained to recover downed pilots and other personnel as required, have been training for the deployments for the past year. They're expected to return home in January.

"It was a team effort to get our members out the door," said Lt. Col Shawn Fitzgerald, the acting commander of the 106th Operations Group. "They are excited, ready and trained for the mission.

All elements of the 106th Rescue Wing worked together to prepare for the deployment, said Col. Thomas Owens, the wing commander. Maintenance, mission support, and medical groups worked to make certain that the deployment requirements for both Afghanistan and Africa were met and that each Airman's personal affairs were in order.

The "spin-up" training that the Airmen went through in the past year "has been unprecedented as far as quality of training, integration with other units and realism," Owens said.

Personnel trained at high quality ranges throughout the country, he reported. At the same time the wing's maintenance teams ensured that the aircraft the wing deployed -- HH60G Pavehawk rescue helicopters and HC-130 search and rescue aircraft -- were in top shape. Members of the wing's maintenance group also deployed with the para-rescue and search and recovery Airmen.

"I am truly proud of the men and women of the 106th Rescue Wing," said Col. Jeffrey Arndy, commander of the 106th Maintenance Group. "We train with the mindset of being a world-class team of adaptable personnel recovery war fighters. Our deployed members are well prepared for the tasking at hand."

While their Airmen are deployed the wing will provide support for family members here at home, Owens said.

"We are all extremely proud of our Hometown Heroes in the 106th Air Rescue Wing and the vital role they serve both in Homeland Security and in support of military operations around the Globe," said Congressman Tim Bishop.

"That's why I fought for funding to complete necessary upgrades at Gabreski Air Base and co-founded the bipartisan New York Defense Working Group to protect the 106th from potential cuts to the Defense budget."

He continued, "It wasn't long ago that our base in Westhampton was threatened with closure. I'm so glad I was able to work with the Friends of The 106th and the community as well as then Senator Hillary Clinton, Assemblyman Fred Thiele and state and local officials to ensure its continued viability as an important resource, both to the East End and the country."

kmerrill@indyeastend.com

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