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CHICKEN WINGS FAIL TO FLY ALL THE WAY EDIBLES DISAPPEAR, BUT MEMENTOS WEAR WELL WITH AREA RESERVISTS

The Christmas trees made it. The chicken wings didn't.

Somewhere during a 32 1/2 -hour series of military cargo flights from Niagara Falls to this nation, 30 pounds of original Anchor Bar wings destined for Western New York's Air Force reservists in the Persian Gulf area disappeared.

The disappointment was palpable, even if the chicken wings weren't.

At 3 a.m. on a flight line at an air base somewhere in this nation, the members of the 914th Tactical Airlift Group had to content themselves with the decorated trees and a few boxes of Buffalo Bills caps.

Air crews returning from a nighttime training mission near the Kuwaiti border and a stop at a Saudi Arabian air base quickly sported the caps -- and big smiles.

"It's important to hear from home," said Lt. Col. Paul R. Cooper, commander of the Niagara Falls Reserve group.

CORRECTION: 12-11-90 B4 "Col. Paul R. Cooper"
"The hard part is not being home. The people enjoy doing the mission."

News from home is not totally unknown here. There is no cable television news, and the reservists' copies of The Buffalo News arrive a week or more late. But even the local television channel carried film of Buffalo's recent snowstorm.

"They Buffalo bash even here," said Maj. Gene Ziemba of Williamsville.

The air base used by reserve units from Niagara Falls and Detroit is far from the Kuwaiti border, and conditions aren't as primitive as those faced by soldiers in the Saudi desert.

The tents sheltering the more than 200 Western New Yorkers include real beds instead of cots.

The weather, right now, approximates Buffalo's in August.

Still, Cooper added: "Everything's within 100 yards of sand."

"It's livable," added Master Sgt. Joseph P. Suszynski of Buffalo. "Compared to Vietnam, this is easy. But I was a Marine in Vietnam."

The wing stationed here flies C-130 Hercules transports, including eight flown from Niagara Falls when the unit was activated in October. Flights and work on the aircraft goes on around the clock.

"We usually have an airplane launch every hour, and we'll typically run 10 or 11 launches a day," Cooper said.

"Some of our missions are like regular little bus runs that we do everyday. We also have tactical types of missions, air drop types of mission."

The unit originally was scheduled to be home just after Christmas, but a 90-day extension has pushed that date back until spring. Unit morale suffered, but the reservists here had little choice.

"Some of the people who have been most disappointed about the extension are the people most professional about doing their jobs," said Cooper, the vice wing commander of the consolidated unit.

"The work of our family support center back home has really been very important," he said. "Basically, once you're here, you can't go home."

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