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Liberty Airmen gear up for AEF 4

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Michael Hess
  • 48th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
As the annual PCS season fluctuation of incoming and outgoing Liberty Warriors steadies, another personnel flux began this month. Hundreds of Airmen will depart RAF Lakenheath to support military operations worldwide with Air and Space Expeditionary Force 4. Besides locations in Southwest Asia, Airmen will also deploy to South America, Africa and Eastern Europe. 

All together, more than 800 Airmen assigned to the 48th Fighter Wing are slated to participate in this deployment. 

"This is an average-sized deployment," said Capt. Gretchen Yule, 48th Fighter Wing deployment manager. "It's lower than expected, though there will be people tasked as needed." Average-sized is in relation to January 2005 when more than 1,200 Airmen deployed from the 48th FW. 

Airman Allison Jernigan, 48th Civil Engineer Squadron engineer assistant, deployed to Iraq Tuesday, said she is nervous about her first deployment, although also excited. "It'll be a learning experience," she said. 

A large number of the deploying Airmen will go south, to support the 494th Fighter Squadron F-15E Strike Eagles in the Middle East. The remaining deployed Liberty Warriors will support Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom in Iraq, Afghanistan, Krygystan, and several European and stateside installations. 

Captain Yule said it is not uncommon to have one AEF bucket deploy to a wide variety of installations. Each wing is required to provide Airmen and equipment to various AEF rotations throughout the year. 

The AEF concept is designed to complete the mission downrange and "still work at home, while providing Airmen predictability," said Captain Yule. 

This allows Airmen to plan their life around a known deployment time and commanders to know who is available for further deployments. According to Captain Yule, an Airman's bucket comes up every 16 months. 

To ensure deploying Liberty Warriors know what to expect on the ground upon arrival, all Airmen go through pre-deployment briefings. 

Pre-deployment briefings include operational security, climate and terrain information, finance, chapel, legal, medical and public affairs. Each organization provides the deploying Airmen their expertise and services, applicable to their deployed location. 

"The deployment process was smooth. I didn't have any problems," said Airman Jernigan. 

She was one of many who said goodbye to families and friends Tuesday morning. Another large group of Airmen leave Monday for their deployed locations as well. Many arms were outstretched to say farewell, and in four months the base will undergo another influx as Airmen trickle back from deployments to the same outstretched arms awaiting their return.