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Wing's aircrews and support side help maintain mission

OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM -- Although most members of the 321st Air Expeditionary Wing may see their participation in the war against terrorism as being behind the scenes, the action is main stage for the flying squadrons at this deployed location.

C-130 Hercules crews based here fly daily missions supporting the war effort, said Maj. Chris Sodemann, a pilot with the 775th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron. The far-ranging C-130 crews of the 775th EAS move people and equipment throughout the area of responsibility, he said.

"And if (an aircraft is) flying, (the 376th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron is) refueling it," said Maj. Phil Anderson, 376th EARS KC-135 Stratotanker current operations planner. "Every operation requires fuel support. We've refueled everything from B-2s to AWACS and even Navy aircraft."

"We fly 24 hours a day to get in there and get the job done," said Tech. Sgt. Erica Scott, a 376th EARS KC-135 boom operator. "What I do isn't gory, but it's an integral part of combat support in the big picture, and it's satisfying to know that the big guys are able to work because I (work)."

Combat support at the 321st AEW also includes Navy P-3 Orions, which provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance in the war effort.

"We provide round-the-clock coverage of three detachment sites in the area, and this detachment runs about three missions a day," said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Andy Westerkom, officer in charge of the Patrol Squadron 46 detachment here.

However, aircrews could not function without the support of the entire 321st AEW team. Communications and food are just two examples.

"Our reporting requires the dissemination of intelligence," Westerkom said. "Air Force communications provide our (secure) connections."

The comm team also provides an important morale function for keeping in contact with friends and families, Westerkom said. "Without Air Force communications, the only way we could connect to the U.S. in the past was through (amateur) ham radios. Now we have telephones and e-mail capability."

Operators need fuel just as much as airplanes, said Chief Master Sgt. Arvin Davis, 321st AEW command chief. "The dining facility provides a great service to the flyers and the entire base population," he said. "Not only are they fed superb meals at normal dining times, they also have the option to pick up flight meals if their schedules don't match the facility's normal operating hours.

"There's one thing we want everyone (here) to remember," Davis said. "Whether...a crew member, communications technician or services technician, (everyone is) a critical part of the fight; one simply can't function without the other."

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