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Seymour Johnson Squadron Prepares for Return to Iraq

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GOLDSBORO — Hundreds of airmen from Seymour Johnson Air Force Basewill help patrol the Southern no-fly zone in Iraq. The 335th Fighter Squadron will head back to Kuwait late next month for a 90 day deployment.

The routine mission was scheduled months ago, but with new tensions and recent bombing of Iraqi battle stations, the mission for the 300 airmen could be anything but routine.

"It certainly helps us to focus because we know that we are training here, and that there is a very good chance that we will use those skills when we deploy," says Asst. Operations Officer LTC. John Clark. "It gives an extra edge on our training."

Nearly half of the 335th squadron is training atNellis Air Force Basein Nevada. The weapons they are testing with include laser guided versions, the same ones they would rely on if there is trouble during the deployment.

"The morale is very high," Clark said. "Most of us, if not all of us, are looking forward to the deployment."

The mission over Iraq could be dangerous, but many pilots are wondering why Seymour Johnson has not been called to go to Kosovo yet. Some expected it to happen, but so far it has been business as usual.

"On one hand, if something is going on you want to be a part of it," Clark said. "But also, we have been doing contingency operations for some time, and many of the squadron have combat time. So were more inclined to wait and see when were called upon, and just make sure that we are ready to go when we get the call."

While half of the group is still in Nevada, the other half returned last weekend. They said the training is very similar to the planned missions in Iraq, and that they should be at the top of their game when they deploy.

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Brian Bowman, Reporter
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