301st Reservists Leave Fort Worth for Iraq

Pilots and crew from the 301st Fighter Wing leave the Joint Reserve Base for Iraq.

Airmen and several officers from the Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base's 301st Fighter Wing had a frigid send-off Monday morning as the pilots and flight crews once again left for Iraq.

In all, 94 reservists were soaked by the freezing rain that fell before dawn as they boarded their transport plane headed for Balad Air Base in Iraq.

The group will become part of the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing. Once led by the Tuskegee Airmen in World War II, it is the most forward deployed fighter unit in history.  They will pave the way for 350 more reservists to follow from their Fort Worth unit in the next few weeks.  

This is the third hitch in Iraq for the 457th Fighter Squadron of the 301st Fighter Wing, and they will fly their Fort Worth-based F-16 fighter jets in patrols over Iraq for the next three months.

While every one of the reservists voluntarily put their civilian lives on hold, departing is still difficult for their families. 

"Being able to stay in touch by phone helps relieve some of the stress of those left back home," said Col. Kevin E. Pottinger, commanding officer of the 301st Fighter Wing. "Just hearing the voice of dad or mom, even though they are in harms way over there, brings a great deal of comfort to the families."

Members of the Fort Worth Airpower Council joined commanders in the send-off line and gave the reservists phone cards to help them stay in touch with their families while they are deployed.

The group will spend a night at Homestead Air Reserve Base in Florida before continuing to Balad.

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