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Pope Airmen to Join NATO Forces in Kosovo

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POPE AIR FORCE BASE — Airmen fromPope Air Force Basewill soon be playing a role in the widening conflict in Kosovo. Several dozen people will accompany tons of equipment to Europe.

In all, 80 people from Pope have been tapped to join the NATO operations around Kosovo.

Twenty people along with about 20 tons of equipment, including vehicles and communication equipment, will be leaving from the 43rd Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron.

In addition, fourA-10 aircraftalong with 60 airmen from the 23rd Fighter Group are also being sent.

The A-10 is a single-seat tactical fighter and light attack aircraft known for taking out tanks.

The Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron is a first response air and ground tactical evacuation unit. It provides personnel and equipment needed to move casualties within and from combat zones.

"The Aeromedical Evacuation Unit is uniquely qualified to be able to jump out of planes and stabilize patients and prepare them for evacuations on airplanes or other means of transportation," said Gen. D.L. Johnson, Pope Air Force Base commander.

Personnel of the 43rd include flight nurses, aeromedical technicians, medical service officers and communications specialists.

Pope officials say other units are preparing to deploy as well.

"We've been looking at a package of six or sevenC-130's. We have some 18th Support Operation Group Units that are being looked at," said Johnson.

Many military families in the area are now on edge wondering who will be called on next.

"It heightens the concern and the anxiety, not only among the forces that will go there, be deployed and have to fight, but also those who are left behind. The families and their thoughts and their prayers are with these guys, but obviously there's a heightened concern as a consequence of all this," said Ret. U.S. Air Force Lieutenant General Robert Springer.

The 80 people will be leaving within the next few days. Officials are not saying how long the deployment will be.