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Pope Airmen Aware of Persian Gulf Risks

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Captain Joe Schultz says the airmen in the Persian Gulf are experienced, but still anything can happen.
FAYETTEVILLE — President Clinton is again beefing up our military presence in the PersianGulf. While there's no call to action for added fighters from Pope AirForce Base, they're still in the thick of the action in Southern Iraq.

There are about 200 Pope airmen now in the Persian Gulf, and their focusis on Iraq. They're about half way through a 45 day assignment. It'spart of a routine rotation, but when you're dealing with SaddamHussein, there's really no such thing as routine.

"You worry all the time when they're flying, definitely when you have thetreat that their security is threatened," says pilot wife, CharlotteFulton. "They might get shot down, or they might become activelyinvolved. To say you feel threatened would be a big understatement."

Fulton is keeping a close eye on developments in Iraq, because her husbandis flying missions there. Major Paul Fulton is with the 75th FighterSquadron, which left for an air base in Kuwait last month. The Pope unitis helping enforce the no-fly zone over southern Iraq.

Fulton tries not to focus on it very much. She spends her time goingabout her daily business, and gains comfort from the wife support group.

The 75th and its A-10 Thunderbolts should be home by Christmas. Butanother Pope fighter squadron will take its place. The 74th is nowgetting ready for its next rotation in Kuwait.

"Most of the guys in the squadron have been in Kuwait several times now,so they're pretty experienced with flying in that region," explainsCaptain Joe Schultz. "We're really prepared, and we're really lookingforward to going over there. We're ready for whatever comes our way."

Schulz is one of the A-10 pilots who will again take to the skies overIraq, and he won't take anything for granted. He realizes there is alwaysthe potential for the situation to get worse.

Right now, the A-10s from Pope are making sure Saddam Hussein doesn't startgathering his troops in southern Iraq. Should the fighters come underfire or be called into combat, they can deliver quite a punch.

Here's a breakdown of the added force headed to the Gulf. Forty-fiveplanes will head to the Middle East, half will be sent immediately. Thejets include F-117 stealth aircraft to be sent to Kuwait and B-52 bombersto be based on Diego Garcia, an island in the Indian Ocean. Thirty morewarplanes, including F-15's and F-16's, will be on standby in case they'reneeded.

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