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MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) -
A deployment ceremony was held Saturday morning for the Alabama Air National Guard's historic 187th Fighter Wing "Red Tails."
Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley and Rep. Terri Sewell spoke at the ceremony.
The Montgomery-based 187th is deploying to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and will use its F-16C+ Fighting Falcons, called "Red Tails," to provide armed over-watch and close-air-support for ground units.
The Alabama Air National Guard says fighter jets and Airmen from Air National Guard (ANG) have deployed regularly for the last 20 years as part of the U. S. Air Force's Air Expeditionary Forces, but this type of mobilization is the first for a traditional Air National Guard unit since Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003.
Previously, deployments have been shorter and typically covered by a combination of personnel and equipment from several ANG units. Recent budget crises, however, have challenged the U.S. Air Force, active and reserve components alike, to find ways to maintain high levels of readiness while continuing to meet its overseas rotational commitments.
"That we're an ANG unit will be transparent to anyone in theater. For the leadership in place when we show up, we could be an active duty squadron. Other than the hardware that we are bringing in, we'll be the same," said Lt. Col. Ryan Barker, 100th Fighter Squadron commander. The 100th Fighter Squadron is part of the 187th Fighter Wing and was one of the original Tuskegee Airmen squadrons of World War II fame.
"It's a privilege to serve with such a great group of Americans," said Col. Samuel Black, commander of the 187th Fighter Wing. "The men and women of the 187th never shrink from a challenge, and they always strive to display the same honor, integrity, courage and tenacity of the Tuskegee Airmen – the Red Tails."
This will be the ninth combat deployment for the 187th Fighter Wing since the end of Operation Desert Storm.