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Colorado Air National Guard Returns to Iraq

Jamie holds daughters Ava and Izabel as they watch husband and father Technical Sgt. Paul Porras depart for his deployment to Iraq. TSgt. Porras, 140th Maintenance Squadron, Colorado Air National Guard, Buckley Air Force Base, Aurora, CO, is deploying to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom along with more than 200 other Airman from the base. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. John Nimmo, Sr.) (RELEASED)

Jamie holds daughters Ava and Izabel as they watch husband and father Technical Sgt. Paul Porras depart for his deployment to Iraq. TSgt. Porras, 140th Maintenance Squadron, Colorado Air National Guard, Buckley Air Force Base, Aurora, CO, is deploying to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom along with more than 200 other Airman from the base. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. John Nimmo, Sr.) (RELEASED)

Commanders and senior staff of the Colorado National Guard Joint Force Headquarters and 140th Wing salute the departure of more than 200 Airmen deploying to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. John Nimmo, Sr.) (RELEASED)

Commanders and senior staff of the Colorado National Guard Joint Force Headquarters and 140th Wing salute the departure of more than 200 Airmen deploying to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. John Nimmo, Sr.) (RELEASED)

Technical Sgt. William Schmidt, 140th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, Colorado Air National Guard, Buckley Air Force Base, Aurora Colorado, talks with his daughter Shealie and son Rylan as he waits to hear his name called just prior to deploying to Iraq. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. John Nimmo, Sr.) (RELEASED)

Technical Sgt. William Schmidt, 140th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, Colorado Air National Guard, Buckley Air Force Base, Aurora Colorado, talks with his daughter Shealie and son Rylan as he waits to hear his name called just prior to deploying to Iraq. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. John Nimmo, Sr.) (RELEASED)

Colorado Air National Guardsmen from Buckley Air Force Base, Aurora, CO, verify their paperwork is in order before departing for Iraq. More than 200 Airman volunteered to deploy to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. John Nimmo, Sr.) (RELEASED)

Colorado Air National Guardsmen from Buckley Air Force Base, Aurora, CO, verify their paperwork is in order before departing for Iraq. More than 200 Airman volunteered to deploy to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. John Nimmo, Sr.) (RELEASED)

Technical Sgt. Clifton Moy, 140th Maintenance Squadron, Colorado Air National Guard, Buckley Air Force Base, Aurora, CO, poses for a self-portrait with fianc? Jessica. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. John Nimmo, Sr.) (RELEASED)

Technical Sgt. Clifton Moy, 140th Maintenance Squadron, Colorado Air National Guard, Buckley Air Force Base, Aurora, CO, poses for a self-portrait with fianc? Jessica. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. John Nimmo, Sr.) (RELEASED)

The commander of the 140th Wing, Brig. Gen. Trulan Eyre speaks to Airmen and family members about their up-coming mission to Joint Base Balad, Iraq. More than 200 members of the Colorado Air National Guard are deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. John Nimmo, Sr.) (RELEASED)

The commander of the 140th Wing, Brig. Gen. Trulan Eyre speaks to Airmen and family members about their up-coming mission to Joint Base Balad, Iraq. More than 200 members of the Colorado Air National Guard are deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. John Nimmo, Sr.) (RELEASED)

Major General H. Michael Edwards, Adjutant General, Colorado National Guard greets each Airman before they depart for Iraq. More than 200 Colorado Air National Guardsman are deploying in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. John Nimmo, Sr.) (RELEASED)

Major General H. Michael Edwards, Adjutant General, Colorado National Guard greets each Airman before they depart for Iraq. More than 200 Colorado Air National Guardsman are deploying in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. John Nimmo, Sr.) (RELEASED)

Buckley Air Force Base, Colo. -- More than 100 Citizen-Airmen assigned to the 140th Wing left for Balad Air Base, Iraq today.

More than 200 Airmen in total, including maintenance, pilots and support personnel will deploy in Support of Operation Iraqi Freedom during the next week.

Every one of the 140th Wing members volunteered to go on what will be the fourth deployment during the past six years in support Operation Iraqi Freedom.

"For 16 years, the Colorado Air National Guard has sent our aircraft and our personnel over into the Middle Eastern theatre, whether for the no-fly zone enforcement, or in support of the Global War on Terror," said Major General H Michael Edwards, the Adjutant General, Colorado National Guard.

When he asked the pre-deployment assembly for a show of hands from first time deployers, only a few Airmen raised their hands.

Master Sergeant Peter Mendoza is one of those headed back.

"This is my third time; I'm getting used to it. The first time I took one full bag of civilian clothes, last time I took about half of that, and this time I'm not taking any. I'm down to one bag instead of three," he said.

For Senior Airman Adam Speer, this is his first time to Iraq. He was sent to Afghanistan for two six-month tours while in the Air Force. Now, eight months after joining the Colorado Air National Guard, he's looking forward to maintaining F-16s in Iraq.

Staff Sergeant Chris Roby has never deployed before, but he has solid support at home. His wife, Jennifer, said she is excited for him. "I'm not too worried. I used to be in the Air Force, so I know what this deployment thing is like."

Brigadier General Trulan A. Eyre, 140th Wing Commander, said to the departing group: "You are returning to a place that we established. In 2004, the Colorado Air National Guard began what is happening at Balad Air Base right now."

General Eyre was the Commander of the 140th Operations Group in 2004 when the air-base was first secured and prepared for use by coalition aircraft. Colorado's F-16s were the first aircraft to land at Balad Air Base, now called Joint Base Balad, Iraq.

Although there were many tears, everyone understands the importance of these deployments.

Members of the 140th Wing know that the sound of their F-16s overhead are a reassurance to ground forces that assistance is close at hand if needed. Taking another turn to join the fight is a Colorado Air National Guard tradition. 




Fast Facts
· Joint Base Balad is the second busiest airport in the world, second to Heathrow in London.
· Joint Base Balad is the new name for what used to be called Balad Air Base by the Air Force and Logistics Support Area Anaconda by the Army. The new name went into effect at midnight June 15, 2008 to reflect the dual nature of the base.
· Approximately 25,000 US Airmen and Soldiers are based at Joint Base Balad with nearly 8,000 civilian contractors. 

Sources: Wikipedia and Global Security.org