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More than 140 from Falls air base to be deployed; Will leave this week for Afghan war zone

More than 140 airmen of the 914th Airlift Wing this week will begin their deployment to the Afghan war zone from the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station.

Members of the operations, maintenance and logistics groups will begin an approximately four-month mission in support of ongoing contingency operations at an undisclosed location in southwest Asia.

"The holiday is gone, the parties are over, and now it's time to get to work," said Col. Mark Murphy, vice commander of the 914th.

A group of 10 airmen Tuesday was the first to leave in preparation for the deployment. Nearly 100 members are expected to leave Saturday.

Murphy said the advance team will set up operations so the entire group can go right to work.

"Every time we have deployed together from Niagara Falls, we've had great comments from those overseas about how well we work together," Murphy said.

Units from the Falls air base will be in the Middle East to support the ongoing war effort and will provide tactical airlift throughout southwest Asia.

The airmen also can be called upon to land on short landing strips near coalition troops, he said.

The Tuesday morning flight out, aboard a C-130 cargo plane, was delayed several hours due to snowy weather.

Capt. Jessica -- the Airlift Wing requested her last name not be used for security reasons -- was headed out on her first mission as a maintenance officer with the 914th and had trouble containing her excitement.

"There's been a bit of a delay, but everyone is very excited," said the 29-year-old New York City resident, who has been preparing six months for this operation. "Every single one here has been fighting to go. We had to turn people down. We're really looking forward to supporting the effort, to getting over there and doing what we have been trained to do."

She said her group will be in charge of maintaining the aircraft to make sure planes are mission-ready and ready to fly.

Murphy noted that the captain recently was chosen as the Air National Reserve Association junior officer of the year for 2010.

Lt. Col. Jim, 45, a commercial airline pilot from Atlanta, is the commander for the 328th Airlift Squadron -- part of the 914th -- and said he has been deployed several times.

"Our mission is tactical airlift, resupplying troops, air dropping supplies, material and personnel throughout the theater of operation," he said.

He said servicemen adapt quickly to their jobs, with the main stress being separation from family.

"It gets easier when you know what to expect, and you kind of look forward to doing what you need to do, but it's always tough on the families. My family is doing well and are used to it, but it's not fun."

e-mail: nfischer@buffnews.com

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