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943rd reservists depart for Iraq, Afghanistan

Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. -- Nearly 70 members of the 943rd Rescue Group here deployed to Afghanistan
Jan. 3.

Area family members gathered in the 943rd Maintenance Squadron hangar that Wednesday evening to say goodbye to their loved ones while they made final preparations to depart.

The Airmen are scheduled to be deployed for various durations of time in support of Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom. Some Airmen will be gone as long as four months as part of a planned Aerospace Expeditionary Force deployment.

Although individual squadrons in the 943rd have deployed before, this marks the first deployment as the 943rd Rescue Group.

As their AEF mission begins, Lt. Col. Steven White, deputy commander for the 305th Rescue Squadron, will take control as the deployed commander.

As the Airmen prepared to leave, he spoke with them all once more.

"Leaving everyone behind isn't easy. I know that no one wants to go halfway around the world into harm's way. But we've been all over the country and all over the world to do search and rescue. Let's do our job safely and right, and come back home," said Colonel White.

The reservists shared good-byes with their families, but they were thankful to be leaving now instead of before the holidays.

"Of course I'm happy it's afterward. I like to spend Christmas with my family," said Senior Master Sgt. Mike Flake, a flight engineer with the 305th Rescue Squadron. He and his family might be used to seeing him leave, but they say it never gets easy.

"It's hard sometimes, but you have to get used to it after awhile," said Sergeant Flake's son, Brayden.

Sozelle, the sergeant's wife, compliments her kids for their understanding.

"They just have that faith that he'll be back. They're stalwart kids," said Mrs. Flake.

The deploying men and women have been preparing for this day for months, but Col. Robert Dunn, 943rd Rescue Group commander, says his Airmen have really been training for this kind of mission throughout their career.

"These men and women are every bit as thoroughly trained as their active duty counterparts. That means they train to do more in much less time. Their commitment as citizen Airmen is proven in their selfless, volunteer dedication. They leave behind their families, their jobs and their friends to protect the freedoms of every American. I'm very proud of each and every one of them," said Colonel Dunn.

Although many families and media were on hand to see the men and women leave, Colonel Dunn said he hoped to see even more people when everyone comes back home.