Local News

1,500 Seymour Johnson Airmen Headed to Kosovo

Posted May 27, 1999

— Thecrisis in Kosovois hitting home for more North Carolina families. Hundreds of airmen from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base found out Friday they are finally joining the NATO campaign against Yugoslavia.

Only about 4,700 active duty personnel are currently on the base; 1,500 of them found out they are headed to Eastern Europe. The first group will leave early Saturday morning, and they do not know when they will return.

After weeks of waiting for a deployment date, the airmen are ready for action.

"We are getting ready to go to war," says Staff Sgt. Dennis Loretz. "We're generating a bunch of aircraft and personnel to move over to support Operation Allied Force."

Logistic crews are currently prepping materials for the giant C-5 transport planes that will take them to the region. They will work 24 hours a day until the final flight goes out June 2.

Some airmen are relieved to be on the move because the waiting is finally over.

"I think everybody is relieved that we are finally doing something, because when you are just waiting, you just don't know when everything is going to go," says Staff Sgt. Donelle Paige.

The personnel are the first to start moving Saturday morning, then 36 F-15E Strike Eagles follow immediately afterward.

The squadron will be in the middle of the action in Kosovo. Airmen agree that waiting for the call has been the most difficult. They firstlearned three weeks agothat they would be leaving, but had no idea when the deployment would begin.

"Everybody is pretty excited," Loretz said. "We have been hearing rumors lately, and today is a good day. We've been waiting for the order, and now that it has arrived, we can actually get out and do our jobs."

Another fighter squadron was supposed to have left several days ago for Southwest Asia to keep an eye on the southern no-fly zone in Iraq. The mission was put on hold so they could handpick the personnel for Kosovo.

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