146th AW deploys to Afghanistan
By Scott Hadly, 146AW
/ Published January 07, 2010
PORT HUENEME, Calif. -- In an inch-thick binder on her knee, Senior Airman Danielle Martinez has everything she needs for one part of her life -- her dog tags, mission manual, passport, travel orders and health records -- on the other she has everything that really matters, her 21-month-old son Clark.
"I'm more worried about him," she said as she waited to deploy to Afghanistan on Tuesday with part of the 146th Air Wing out of the Channel Islands Air National Guard Station. "I've never been away from him before."
With her husband, Loren, at her side in a briefing room before dawn, Martinez prepared herself for an almost three-month deployment with more than two-dozen others in the unit.
Loren, a 26-year-old welder who is a specialist in the Army National Guard, said the two of them have served for more than five years in the military and prepared themselves for her deployment.
"We're ready, I just might have a hard time finding everything while she's gone," he said.
He'll be getting some help watching Clark, a sturdy boy who clung to his mom, oblivious that she will be gone for the next 90 days.
Before boarding a C-130J aircraft bound for Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, the men and women were briefed by the commander of the unit, Col. Paul Hargrove, who started by thanking them and their families.
"Thank you for volunteering for this," Hargrove said.
A United Airlines pilot, who took a leave to work full time commanding the 146th Airlift Wing, Hargrove told those heading to Afghanistan that their mission was a crucial part of the surge of 30,000 troops there. The pilots and crew transport food, medicine, supplies, ammunition and people. Increasingly, Army and Marine units are using air drops to get supplies to some of their more remote combat outposts along the Pakistan border to cut down on the use of more dangerous convoys, Hargrove said.
Because they have civilian jobs, members of the California Air National Guard are not deployed as long as active duty Marine and Army units. That said, Hargrove said the rotations happen faster, and that the same men and women leaving this week could expect to be called back up 12 months after they get back.
Another contingent of airmen from his unit deployed last weekend to Iraq. In all, more than 220 men and women of the 1,200 member Air Wing are currently serving in Iraq or Afghanistan.
"This is a marathon, not a sprint," Hargrove said of the war, giving everyone notice that it will be years before the war effort is over.
Capt. Brian Hutten, a pilot with Continental Airlines, was heading back to Afghanistan for the fifth time. As people loaded into the C-130J for its flight, Hutten was in the cockpit making final preparations for the flight, which includes four stops on the way.
Once in the war zone, he expects 12 to 15 hour days flying in challenging conditions over the deserts and mountains of Afghanistan.
"But that's what we do," he said.